Thursday, 3 August 2006

The Howard League for Hazardous Reform

“Locking more men, women and children up for longer cannot be considered a serious, measured response to protecting and reassuring the public”, [1] says a press release from The Howard League for Penal Reform, whose members, having made some efforts to persuade themselves that putting criminals in prison does not protect or reassure the public, are determined to persuade the public itself that this is so.
.....Naturally our reformers are optimists, and are of the opinion that there is no man, however despicable or base in character, who cannot be corrected by the freedom to do good, or, failing that, by bribes; and, insofar as they understand their ideas to be fallible, they feel that, where criminals do not deserve the sanction of prison, the public deserves the risk.
.....I think Chamfort said it best: “Instead of trying to correct the intolerable way some people behave, we’d do better to correct the weakness of character of the people who let them get away with it.” [2]
.....
[1] The Howard League for Penal Reform, “Home Office’s half-baked plans will create more victims of crime” (Press Release), 20th July 2006.
[2] Nicolas-Sébastien Roch de Chamfort, Reflections on Life, Love and Society, tr. & ed. by D. Parmée (London: Short Books, 2003), §47, p.51.

8 comments:

Cirdan said...

The UK already has the highest number of prisoners in Europe, and the highest number of prisoners ever. That doesn't seem to have radically reassured or protected the public. If 'locking more men, women and children up for longer' was ever a viable way of 'reassuring and protecting the public', it isn't now.

John East said...

cirdan,
So what's your answer?

Incidently, if you have an answer, I would be grateful for any links that you may have to support your case.

Deogolwulf said...

"The UK already has the highest number of prisoners in Europe".

We also have the largest population of yobs in Europe. The public are not reassured or protected because there are simply not enough of such persons in prison. I suggest, Cirdan, that you visit an average British town on an average Saturday night, then compare with say an average French or German or Slovenian town, and then you might begin to know something about the state of Britain.

Cirdan said...

Harsh sentencing is an inefficient and unjust way of handling most criminals. First, because prisons are expensive to build and maintain. Second, because there’s surprisingly little evidence that locking large numbers of people up (for any but the most serious crimes) is an effective way of deterring or reducing crime; for example, between 1997 and 2001, recorded violent crime in England and Wales rose approx. 22% per year*, despite years of ever harsher sentences for ever younger offenders previously. This is only to be expected, as locking people up, especially locking young people up is a surprisingly efficient way of educating them in criminal habits. Fourth, locking large numbers of people up reduces the deterrent effects of any single prison sentence – the rarer a prison sentence is the likelier it is to act as a deterrent. Fifth, locking up people with substance-abuse and mental problems is exactly the wrong way of helping them. Finally, a vital piece of the crime-reduction puzzle is the stability of the family; jailing people, especially women, is often fatal for family cohesion.

This is to say nothing of the corrosive effects on freedom that recent penal reforms have had and will have, but that’s an argument for another day.

*www.homeoffice.gov.uk/rds/pdfs2/hosb1203.pdf, check out crimereduction.gov too

Deogolwulf said...

Cirdan: "there’s surprisingly little evidence that locking large numbers of people up (for any but the most serious crimes) is an effective way of deterring or reducing crime"

So, prison works as "an effective way of deterring or reducing" the most serious crimes, but not less serious crimes. Would you care to explain how this comes about?

Cirdan: "recorded violent crime in England and Wales rose approx. 22% per year*, despite years of ever harsher sentences. This is only to be expected, as locking people up, especially locking young people up is a surprisingly efficient way of educating them in criminal habits."

You are not joking, are you? You think the greater criminality, the breaking-down of society, and the barbarism that increasingly prevails is actually caused in large part by the feeble efforts to halt it? Well, I suppose it's a view that does away with any need to bother with a consideration of history, of how we ever got into this mess!

By the by, sentencing is not harsh in this country, by any historical comparison. Your "ever harsher" means "a little less feeble". Moreover, if recorded violent crime has risen, shouldn't you be supporting an increase in prison numbers, or do you think violent crime is not serious enough to warrant the sanction of prison, and that we should allow a greater number of violent criminals to remain at large? Do you have great new experimental ideas for stopping the violence of these persons while they are at large? Would you care to live in the areas in which they live while you put these ideas to the test? You'll forgive me my scepticism, I hope.

Cirdan: "the rarer a prison sentence is the likelier it is to act as a deterrent"

Have you lost your marbles?

David Duff said...

"Have you lost your marbles?"

No, probably some one nicked them when he was busy writing rubbish.

Anonymous said...

Liberal/lefties subscribe to some ill thought out idea that the prison population should be a certain percentage of the population. I suspect Cirdan subscribes to some form of this belief.

So if that figure were 0.1%, when Britain had a 40 million people there should have been 40,000 people doing time.

Now we have 60M people we should have 50,000 prisoners. If it turns out we actually have 60,000 then there are deemed to be 10,000 too many prisoners.

Logically the number of prisoners should be linked to the amount of crime. Im sure Laban Tall has pointed this out at some time.

Anonymous said...

Oh rats!

The more astute among you will have spotted my mathmatical blundering above, Im sure you get the drift though.