What is prison for?


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Generic presentation on 'what is prison for?' for the Howard League for Penal Reform. This version used for University of Oxford in October 2009.

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What is prison for?

  1. 1. WHAT IS PRISON FOR? <ul><li>Andrew Neilson, Assistant Director, Public Affairs and Policy </li></ul>
  2. 2. What is prison for? <ul><li>Punishment </li></ul><ul><li>Public protection </li></ul><ul><li>Deterrence </li></ul><ul><li>Rehabilitation </li></ul>
  3. 3. What do people have to say about prison? <ul><li>‘The degree of civilisation in a society can be judged by entering its prisons’ - Fyodor Dostoevsky </li></ul><ul><li>‘The first real principle which should guide anyone trying to establish a good system of prisons would be to prevent as many people as possible getting there at all’ - Winston Churchill </li></ul>
  4. 4. How is prison used? <ul><li>The past decade and a half has seen an unprecedented expansion in the English & Welsh prison population </li></ul><ul><li>In 1994, the average prison population was 48,631 </li></ul><ul><li>On Friday 16 October 2009 the English & Welsh prison population reached an all time high of 84,711 </li></ul>
  5. 5. Many thousands of new prison places have been built…
  6. 7. What has caused this growth in prison numbers? <ul><li>A 78% increase in the use of immediate custodial sentences </li></ul><ul><li>A 19% increase in those sent to prison for breaches of parole licence and community supervision </li></ul>
  7. 8. People are also spending longer in prison <ul><li>The average time served in prison has increased by 14% since 2000 </li></ul><ul><li>The proportion of the sentenced prison population serving indeterminate or life sentences increasing from 9% in 1995 to 19% in 2009 </li></ul><ul><li>England & Wales has more prisoners serving these open-ended sentences than the rest of western Europe combined </li></ul>
  8. 9. Legislation has had its part to play…
  9. 10. Do crime rates have any bearing on prison numbers?
  10. 11. Not necessarily...
  11. 12. Does prison reduce reoffending?
  12. 13. Who do our prisons hold? <ul><li>Around 55% of prisoners are considered ‘problematic drug users’ </li></ul><ul><li>One in five prisoners report opiate use in prison, many for the first time </li></ul><ul><li>27% of prisoners are BME - compared to one in eleven of the general population </li></ul><ul><li>48% of prisoners are at, or below, the level expected of an 11 year old in reading, 65% in numeracy and 82% in writing </li></ul>
  13. 14. Mental health is a major concern <ul><li>Over one third of men serving prison sentences have a significant mental health problem </li></ul><ul><li>One in four attempt suicide in prison </li></ul><ul><li>Self injury rates in prison increased by 37% between 2003 and 2007 - four times the increase in the prison population </li></ul><ul><li>Women committed 54% of this self injury, despite the fact that only 5% of the prison population is female </li></ul>
  14. 15. Women in prison <ul><li>Women in prison are twenty times more likely to suffer from delusional or schizophrenic disorders than women in the general population </li></ul><ul><li>Over half of women in prison have suffered domestic abuse and one in three have been victims of sexual abuse </li></ul><ul><li>Nearly a third of women in prison have no previous convictions, more than double the proportion of men </li></ul>
  15. 16. Children in prison <ul><li>Two out of five girls and one out of four boys in prison report violence at home </li></ul><ul><li>One in three girls and one in 20 boys in custody have histories of sexual abuse </li></ul><ul><li>40% of children in prison have been homeless </li></ul>
  16. 17. Prison fails children <ul><li>Over a third of children report feeling unsafe in custody </li></ul><ul><li>75% of children leaving custody will go on to reoffend, the highest for any age group </li></ul>
  17. 18. What are prison population rates? <ul><li>International prison population rates are measured per 100,000 of the general population </li></ul><ul><li>The median prison population rate for Western Europe in 2008 was 95 prisoners per 100,000 of the general population </li></ul>
  18. 19. UK prison population rates <ul><li>The English & Welsh prison rate in 2008 was 153 prisoners per 100,000 </li></ul><ul><li>Scotland’s prison rate in 2008 was 152 prisoners per 100,000 </li></ul><ul><li>Northern Ireland’s prison rate in 2008 was 88 prisoners per 100,000 </li></ul>
  19. 20. Some other countries... <ul><li>France (96) </li></ul><ul><li>Germany (89) </li></ul><ul><li>Republic of Ireland (76) </li></ul><ul><li>Norway (69) </li></ul><ul><li>Finland (64) </li></ul><ul><li>Iceland (44) </li></ul>
  20. 21. England & Wales is an outlier in Western Europe
  21. 22. How overcrowded are our prisons? <ul><li>The prison system in England and Wales has been overcrowded for every year since 1994 </li></ul><ul><li>At the end of July 2009, 88 prisons were officially overcrowded </li></ul><ul><li>Around 19,000 prisoners – almost one in four – are currently sharing cells designed for one person </li></ul>
  22. 23. What is the government and opposition saying? <ul><li>The government is committed to building another 10,500 new prison places to reach 96,000 prison places by 2014 </li></ul><ul><li>This will include five new 1,500 place prisons, the largest in the country </li></ul><ul><li>The Conservatives pledge to build a further 5,000 prison places on top of this by selling off ageing Victorian jails and using the money to fund further new prisons </li></ul>
  23. 24. A word of warning...
  24. 25. No jurisdiction has ever built its way out of overcrowding
  25. 26. A vision for change <ul><li>Less crime, safer communities, fewer people in prison </li></ul>
  26. 27. There is growing concern at ever-increasing prison populations <ul><li>In 2007 the Scottish government set up an independent Prisons Commission to look at the purpose and impact of imprisonment in Scotland </li></ul><ul><li>The Commission’s final report, Scotland’s Choice , was published in 2008 and made 23 recommendations </li></ul><ul><li>Scotland now taking steps to reduce its prison population, including a presumption against sentences of six months or less </li></ul>
  27. 28. What about England? <ul><li>In 2007 the Howard League for Penal Reform set up the Commission on English Prisons Today, with Cherie Booth QC as its President </li></ul><ul><li>The Commission’s final report, Do Better Do Less , was published in July 2009 </li></ul>
  28. 29. What did the Commission recommend? <ul><li>A significant reduction in the prison population and the closure of establishments </li></ul><ul><li>The replacement of short prison sentences with community-based responses </li></ul><ul><li>The dismantling of the National Offender Management Service (NOMS), including the break up of the centrally managed prison service </li></ul>
  29. 30. Justice reinvestment <ul><li>The Commission also recommended a restructuring of the penal system on justice reinvestment principles </li></ul><ul><li>Local authorities would take the lead in local strategic partnerships, bringing together representatives from criminal justice, health, education and other sectors </li></ul>
  30. 31. Canada: a success story?
  31. 32. Spending cuts... <ul><li>In 1993 the new Liberal government faced the need to reduce a $42bn deficit </li></ul><ul><li>As part of a strategy to reduce public spending by 20%, the government sought to reduce its spending on prison </li></ul>
  32. 33. ...meant prison cuts <ul><li>Between 1995 and 2004, the Canadian prison population was reduced by 11% - lowering their rate of imprisonment from 131 per 100,000 to 108 per 100,000 </li></ul>
  33. 34. How did the Canadians do it? <ul><li>Inserted a ‘restraint principle’ into their criminal code </li></ul><ul><li>Introduced conditional sentences served in the community </li></ul><ul><li>Developed restorative justice programmes </li></ul><ul><li>Speeded up the parole process </li></ul>
  34. 35. What happened to the crime rate in Canada? <ul><li>Crimes rates in Canada are at their lowest for 25 years </li></ul><ul><li>Between 1991 and 1999 there were drops ranging from 23% in assault and robbery to 43% for homicide </li></ul><ul><li>The magic formula: less crime, safer communities, fewer people in prison </li></ul>
  35. 36. Thank you <ul><li>www.howardleague.org </li></ul>