Tuesday, 17 November 2009

The disgrace of Britain's jails

The Independent on Sunday ran these stories on England's prisons last Sunday. (Click headline for full story)

The disgrace of Britain's jails: Institutions short-change inmates and society
Britain's prison system is being "brought to its knees", according to penal reform experts responding to a damning new report obtained by The Independent on Sunday. The soaring prison population, consistently high re-offending rates and increasing numbers of people on short sentences highlighted in the Prison Reform Trust's dossier have produced a system that is "not fit for purpose", they say.

The alarming findings come at a time when the number of offences recorded by police has fallen, as has the number of people found guilty in the courts. The report's evidence will heap pressure on the Justice Secretary, Jack Straw, already under fire for his stewardship of the penal system.

Juliet Lyon: Our prison-building binge is a badge of national shame
The fevered rate of prison building, at a cost of £170,000 per place, is now set to propel the UK past most of our Eastern European neighbours for prison capacity. Overuse of custody has become a badge of political toughness rather than a matter for national shame.

With no crime wave to fuel it, how has this addiction to imprisonment taken hold so fast? According to a Ministry of Justice review, around 70 per cent of the increase in demand for prison places between 1995 and 2005 arose due to changes in custody rates and increased sentence length. A welter of criminal justice Acts, the creation of thousands of new offences and a raft of mandatory minimum penalties have all taken their toll.

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