Friday, 15 May 2009

Tough on the causes of crime.

I am going to a debate this evening so I want to use this blog to gather my thoughts on our prison service. What is its purpose? Is it working? Well the reason for having prisons is to protect the public from criminals who may do harm to others. A second role is to punish offenders which is linked to deterring others from crime. A third aspect of prisons is to rehabilitate prisoners.

Generally the public are protected from prisoners. There may be problems when prisoners are released but inside I believe that the public are usually protected. I base this on my local prison in Lancaster. I heard that around six years ago two prisoners escaped because some workers had left ladders for them. They had to jump some distance and one of them was injured and recaptured immediately. The other was recaptured a week or so later. Apart from this episode I understand that no prisoner has ever escaped from Lancaster.

On the second point, there is only a punishment if prisoners are worse off inside. You read stories in the tabloid press that prisoners complain if they can't get channel 5. I have no first hand experience of prisons but I don't think they are nice places to be, and as such they are acting as a deterrent. However this depends on your standards. Some people may be better off as prisoners where they can expect regular meals and a roof over their head.

For me rehabilitation is the most important aspect because offenders re-offend. Prisons become criminal universities and we end up with hardened criminals.

Should we be tough on crime? Of course, but it is much more important to be tough on the causes of crime, because we end up with a very expensive scheme that isn't a punishment, treats some people better than they would be treated at home, and then teaches them how to be better criminals.

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