Prison doesn’t work but people believe it does. A stronger Lib Dem voice needed.
28 November 2011 2 Comments
2 things happened this week. 1. I was burgled and they stole my computer and many other things and when the police officer came to my home he said there had been a spike in crime recently in the area and so he would check the list of people who had been released from prison. I thought what a waste of time him going to prison then. The second thing to happen was that there was a debate on radio 4 about restorative justice and some Tory repeated that there was no evidence that it works and that it was a soft option.
There is a war between the ‘prison works’ school which believes that prisons suppress criminal behaviour and the ‘colleges of crime’ school which believes that prisons increase criminality. The Prison Policy Initiative believes that the effect of prison on offenders is minimal as offenders walk into prison with their own set of attitudes and behaviours which change little while in prison, therefore once released they go back to the same behaviour. Hence the policeman telling me he would check the list of recent releases. I don’t think that it is much good to have a system that just delays a person’s criminal behaviour. Studies have shown that prison increases re-offending. For people who believe in this system it is a logical conclusion to say ‘lock them up and throw away the key’ as these people do not believe that people can change. I don’t believe that.
We should be promoting a system that looks and making an internal change in offenders so that they don’t commit crime and this is where restorative justice comes in. There is a lot of evidence that it is more effective than the current system see here, here or here.
There are also other projects that are helping including a project with a seriously criminal population in prisons using a solution-focused approach with a focus on networks. These prisoners were often returned to prison as many as 3 times per year and had a long history of drug misuse and many contacts with a variety of social welfare agencies. The staff had more or less given up hope that these prisoners would be able to stay out of prison. This project, much like the solution-focused child protection work or the solution-focused sex offender management work, sought changes in the networks which may help to reduce recidivism, which it did.
So while there are ignorant people out there on the radio promoting an outdated and ineffective system, there are people continuing to be victims to those who continue committing crime because we can’t get a system which challenges them enough to change. There are systems out there which can do this and we should be repeating the evidence and advocating for their use.
I don’t see it as a soft option and perhaps I wouldn’t have lost a few grand had we got a better system?