Does Prison ‘work’?How effective is the prisonsystem in England and Wales?
What should sentencing (and thusprison) be for?...Justification for types of sentencing in the criminal justicesystem have traditionally drawn of five models..1) Retribution (desert/proportionality) model: ‘just’punishment.2) Deterrence model: prevent re-offending.3) Rehabilitation model: reform of offender.4) Incapacitation model: public protection.5) Restoration model: making amends/reconciliation.
Which model is dominant in theEnglish criminal justice system? How does prison fit into this philosophical framework?
* Criminal Justice Act 1991 stated the ‘desert’ principle was the primaryrationale for sentencing – however, certain serious crimes require‘incapacitation’ e.g. violent and sexual offences.* Criminal Justice Act 2003 changed this.Section 142 states: courts must ‘have regard to’:(a) the punishment of offenders(b) the reduction of crime (including its reduction by deterrence),(c) the reform and rehabilitation of offenders,(d) the protection of the public, and(e) the making of reparation by offenders to persons affected by theiroffences.* 2003 Act - unlike 2001 Act – also stated that previous convictions could beregarded by courts as an aggravating factor in seriousness of sentencing.
Overall effect of 2003 Act is: ‘Just Desert’ rationale is given far less emphasis – ‘Crime Reduction’ is acknowledged as more important than previously.BUT: Evidence suggests there is considerable inconsistency in sentencing and there is significant regional variation. Moreover, sentencing practice and court use of custody in recent years has been heavily influenced by the political climate and ‘get tough’ political rhetoric.
Principles of sentencing in Youth Justice are slightly different: Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008: For offenders under 18, all 5 rationales apply – but * priority is given to reduction of further offending * Custodial sentence should be avoided wherever possible – and presumption is always in favour of community sentencing. Thus – system is governed by more welfarist/rehabilitative assumptions.
How far does prison further each sentencing model?
Prison and ‘retributive’ justice.Issues to consider:1) To what extent is prison used proportionately?2) Does the prison regime reflect the seriousness of the crime?3) Do the public have confidence in custodial sentences?
Prison and rehabilitation.Issues to consider:1) Does prison reduce offending?2) Are re-offending rates worse for prisonersthan those who receive communitysentences?3) Does the prison environment improve orhinder the physical, social and emotionalwell-being of offenders?4) Does prison prepare prisoners for life onthe outside?
Prison and deterrence.Issues to consider:1) Does the threat of imprisonment deterpotential offenders?2) Is prison seen as sufficiently serious bypotential offenders?3) What is the re-offending rate of prisoners? Isit greater or better than offenders withcommunity sentences?
Prison and incapacitationIssues to consider:1)Is prison being used for serious anddangerous offenders?2) Are potentially dangerous prisoners beingreleased from prison without adequatesupervision?3) Is the prison environment secure?
Prison and reparation.Issues to consider:1)Does prison further victimreparation?2) Is prison compatible with models ofrestorative justice?3) Can restorative justice be used asan alternative to custody?
An additional factor to consider: CostIssues to consider:1)How much does prison cost?2) Is it cost-effective when compared toalternatives to custody?
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