Thursday, May 21, 2015

Banged Up

When I was sworn in in the mid 1980s there were something like 40,000 people in prison. Today there are about 85,000, so it must be worthwhile to think about how and why this has happened.

Here is an article by an ex-MP who has done time and in common with other well-known ex-cons has decided to pass on what he has learned.


  1. If I didn't know that this article had been printed in the Guardian I could certainly have guessed as much.

    As ever, it is heavy on what doesn't work yet rather skims over the alternatives. Custody is a last resort used when all other disposals have been tried. Yes, we can talk about rehabilitation, education and employment but what about punishment? Is that to be removed completely from the equation? Why shouldn't those who offend be punished? Why should that not include custody when appropriate? If you insist that mostly it doesn't work then what do you suggest as an alternative punishment, always assuming that punishment is to be an element?

  2. Somewhat disappointed with the above response. Whether it is reported in the Guardian, the Daily Mail or Pravda, it is surely worthwhile enquiring as to why the numbers of people in Prison here have more than doubled to 85,000 and if there is an alternative. In England & Wales we imprison 148 people per 100,000 of population. In Finland it is 58, Denmark 73, Sweden 60, Norway 72 and Germany 78. Are things so different in those countries? Do we have twice as much crime as those countries?
    Or perhaps we should press on until we match the USA where 707 per 100,000 of population are incarcerated. That would lead to an England & Wales a prison population of over 420,000. Good news perhaps for G4S and other prison privateers!
    In the words of Friedrich Nietschze "Beware of all those in whom the urge to punish is strong"

    1. Your figures are meaningless unless you include the number of crimes committed per 100,000 of the population in each of those countries. Rather than prisoners per 100,000 of the population, I would like to see prisoners per 100,000 crimes committed. That might tell a different story.

      Also, it would be useful to know at what stage in a criminal's career (after how many convictions) that criminal sees the inside of a prison.

      Finally, at the same time as people like you are complaining about the number of people in prison, we are told that crime is lower than it has been for some time. If that is true, do you think the two are perhaps related? I think we should be told.

  3. Nothing short of wholesale reform of our system of (in)justice both civil and criminal will do.
    Concentrating on the criminal jurisdiction, there is a mix of outdated crimes polluted even further with a huge number of new crimes- criminalising just about everything, it is no wonder the prisons are full. It's not justice and it does nothing to rehabilitate the offender, who often is from a poor and confused background and generally finds it hard to cope with life.. Of course there comes a time when if an offender will not comply then of to chokey he must go, but for a lot of the lower end stuff that is a mighty expensive way of dealing with it.

    If there were really goos community schemes with effective monitoring the costs could be slashed. There are now tagging devices that can pinpoint where a wearer is and can be used to enforce orders much more effectively. It must be better to effectively put someone under house arrest rather thamn in an expensive prision cell.
    To carry on jailing offenders for this type of low level offence routinly is maddness and must be stopped as every time it is done it builds up even more problems for social services and getting offenders back on track. If jailed they loose their home, benefits and help. When they come out their lives are in chaos and it is then when they reoffend.

    It will take balls to get things back on track but I'm not sure whether the new man has them!!!

  4. Channeling Polly Toynbee ... "crime is falling, yet the prisons have never been so full!"

    "To carry on jailing offenders for this type of low level offence routinely is madness"

    Come on. You have to try pretty hard to be sent to jail these days (unless you're white and you start a "racist rant" on the Tube).


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