1) The anti-prison lobby often cite how expensive prisons are, as an argument against building more of them. However, they fail to take into account the cost of crime in their calculations. Doubling the number of prison places would cost around £7bn, yet the cost of crime is estimated to be £60bn. It would only take a little over a 10% reduction in crime, from double the number of prisoners, to make the project self funding.
2) Contrary to popular opinion, whether measured by surveys of crime victims or by police statistics, serious crime rates are not generally higher in the United States than in England & Wales. For example, out of robbery, assault, burglary, motor vehicle theft, murder and rape, the only crime rate that is higher is murder. And this gap in murder rates has been reducing over the past two decades.
3) In their effort to prove the liberal orthodoxy that prison does not work, criminologists, government officials, and journalists have routinely used the lower reconviction rates of those sentenced to probation and other forms of noncustodial punishment (the word “punishment” in these circumstances being used very loosely) than those imprisoned. But if the aim is to protect the law-abiding, a comparison of reconviction rates of those imprisoned and those put on probation is irrelevant. What counts is the re-offending rate.
4) Anti prison campaigners often believe it is cruel to lock people up for long periods of time - a huge proportion of prisoners are mentally ill. The campaigners believe the mentally ill require good psychiatric care rather than being locked up for years. However, if you want to reduce crime, you put them in prison. There is no reason that these psychiatric services cannot be provided in a secure environment, where would-be innocent victims will not be harmed. Yes - the prison service mops up the failure of the care system, and it doesn't do it particularly effectively. But prison does reduce crime.
5) People often think prison should only be used where the individual poses a danger to society. We maintain most criminals pose a danger to society.
6) If prison works, why is there such a high reoffending rate amongst ex-prisoners? That depends on how you define "works". Prison does not have particularly low reoffending rates (although interestingly neither do a lot of community based schemes), so if you judge prison by that measure, then prison fails. However, if you judge it by the level of crime, then it does work.
7) According to the Home Office, "long-term trends show substantial declines in levels of violent crimes", with an 11 per cent fall last year. These headline grabbing figures, designed purely to make the Government look good, do not tell the whole picture. On the back of this 'long-term trend' of reduction in violent crime, since 1997 'woundings or other acts endangering life' have nearly doubled, robbery has gone up nearly 50% and rape has doubled. For obvious reasons, these particular headline grabbing figures are not spun quite as much.
8) People often think that we jail more people than comparable West European nations. Although this is true as a percentage of population, when measured against the number of offences we actually jail fewer. For example, Spain incarcerate 48 people per 1000 reported crimes. England and Wales, on the other hand, it is just 12. In other words, if you commit a crime in Britain, you are far less likely to be convicted and sent to prison.
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