Prison – does it work ? (and the debate goes on and on !)
Ever since I can remember this debate has gone backwards and forwards, and data, surveys and statistics are rolled out to support one side of the argument or the other, or one side of the political agenda or other. Maybe I’m just getting old and cynical !
So, let’s trot out the latest survey and the typical reactions that go with it. As many readers will know, Ken Clarke, the current justice Secretary, has publicly stated that too many people are in prison, he doesn’t think it works in many cases, and… it’s too expensive. On the other hand, no politician wants to be seen as “soft on crime”. Here’s a summary of what’s been said this week :-
- Offenders released from longer sentences commit fewer crimes after being released than those serving shorter jail terms, the Ministry of Justice says with only 30% of offenders given sentences of between 2-4 years offending again but about 10% more of offenders with shorter sentences of 1-2 years reoffend within a year.
- The other side of the argument states that separate figures show reoffending rates are lower with community penalties than short prison terms. For 2008, research shows community orders and suspended sentences had lower reoffending rates than those sentenced to less than 12 months in jail. In all, 38.6% of criminals given suspended sentences reoffended, compared with 47.4% jailed for less than 12 months. 51.1% of criminals given community orders reoffended, compared with 59.4 per cent of similar offenders who were jailed for less than 12 months.
What’s that phrase…. ? Lies, damn lies and statistics ……
Below is raw data from the latest published crime figures from the British Crime Survey for 2010 :-
- Overall crime down by 3%
- crimes recorded by police fell 6%
- sexual offence crimes up 3%
- burglaries up 14% although domestic burglaries down by 7%
- Household crime showed no change together with violent crime
- Risk of being a victim remained static at 21.4%
- The largest falls in crime were for criminal damage and damage to vehicles, down 17% and 12% respectively
- Firearms offences fell 7% in 2010.
- Knife crime fell by 4% from some 30,500to 29,250
- Aassaults causing grievous bodily harm or actual bodily harm fell by 11%, from 14,660 to 12,998.
As always, this is a very mixed bag set of figures, dealing with a very complex set of situations and variations from region to region. It remains to be seen what effect the likley reduction in police budgets will have on crime rates in the forseeable future. we will be keeping a close watching brief on this.
Prisoners Human Rights
In an interesting new case, a prisoner serving a life sentence for murder has obtained legal help worth up to £12,000.00 to challenge his treatment in prison.
The prisoner, David Bieber, is suing the prison service, arguing that his human rights have been breached due to him being categorised as an Exceptional Risk prisoner, which in turn means he is in a secure underground unit and prevented from use of prison facilities such as the gym. He argues that his human rights have been breached because he has behaved well.
It will be interesting to see how this case develops, we will keep a “watching brief”. Thanks to this page sponsors, solicitors in manchester.
Tories too soft on crime ?
Recent research suggests that the public do not agree with the current Government’s intention to reduce prison occupancy by increasing the amount of community sentences instead.
In a recent poll of more than 2,000 adults, 8 out of 10 state that community sentences are a “soft punishment”, and the figure is higher among police officers and most thought that prison life should be made harder as a deterrent to reoffending, borne out by the fact that 58% of those asked stated that they believe that prison does not work. Most of those polled also seemed to think that crime had risen over the past 14 years.
Without doublechecking, the above figures seem to the writer to be pretty consistent with previous polls over the years, in which the public generally seem to have similar views, yet it is unclear whether the public are fully aware of the very high cost of keeping individuals in prison and that there is an overcrowding problem already in prisons. This debate seems intractable and is always a highly political issue, so it remains to be seen whether the government will alter it’s position for political reasons or maintain the position as part of the stringent legal cost cutting now starting to kick in. Watch this space !
Many thanks for this legal advice.
Prison Law – what is it ?
It covers, amongst many other areas :-
- legal issues in prison
- representation at disciplinary hearings
- representation of prisioners at parole board hearings.
- appeals against conviction and sentence
- judicial review
- lifer reviews
- prison complaints
- human rights
- licence conditions and recall
Figures for the year 2008-2009 show that the Legal Services Commission funded 42,973 Prison Law cases at a cost of some £22 million. This represents a massive increase from the figures of only 7 years before, where just over 5,000 cases were funded.
We will shortly be developing the site into a legal information site, covering a wide range of legal issues and online legal services, whether civil law or criminal law related.
There are significant changes taking place in the law arena, with the Legal Services Act coming in soon, and the issues arising from so-called “Tesco law”. We also intend to report on developments in this area also.