Prison Works tag:www.prisonworks.org,2007://2 2007-02-18T16:22:13Z Dedicated to analysing what is wrong with the UK penal system and how it can be improved to be an effective tool against crime Movable Type 3.2 New measures to tackle gun crime tag:www.prisonworks.org,2007://2.97 2007-02-18T16:14:07Z 2007-02-18T16:22:13Z Here’s the latest example of our chaotic government. The boss says one thing, lets get tough on crime, whilst his ministers say and do the oppositelink>... John East http://johnechoices.blogspot.com/ Here’s the latest example of our chaotic government. The boss says one thing, lets get tough on crime, whilst his ministers say and do the opposite<link>

]]> Tony Blair is planning urgent measures to tackle gun crime and target gangs after a series of fatal shootings. The PM has ordered a review of laws and wants those aged 17 to 21, and not just the over-21s, to face minimum five-year jail terms for having illegal firearms. He told the BBC he wanted gang membership considered in sentencing.


Blair believes, or is pretending to believe, that “prison works” whilst our judges are being leaned upon to jail fewer criminals by Blair’s Lord Chacellor, Falconer. Our prisons are full, and no funding is to be provided by Blair's Treasury to staff the small increase in the number of places belatedly announced by the Home Secretary a few days ago.


So which policy will prevail today, Blair’s new “get tough” announcement or that which is actually happening all around him – weakness and prevarication?

Do I need to ask?

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The view from the probation service tag:www.prisonworks.org,2006://2.96 2006-12-31T11:50:49Z 2007-02-03T19:25:28Z (link) In support of his battle with the government to prevent privatisation of the Probation Service, the assistant general secretary Harry Fletcher of the probation union, NAPO recently said, “….re-offending by those on community sentences was at least 13%... John East http://johnechoices.blogspot.com/ (link) In support of his battle with the government to prevent privatisation of the Probation Service, the assistant general secretary Harry Fletcher of the probation union, NAPO recently said,

“….re-offending by those on community sentences was at least 13% lower than those released from jail.”

]]> He’s trying to convince us all that probation, along with community punishments in general, are more effective than prison. I suppose he has his axe to grind on behalf of vested interests, but whilst I’d agree that probation has a role to play in the criminal justice system, it can only be as part of a process which includes prison, and not as a substitute for prison itself.

The 13% figure quoted by Harry Fletcher could well be a factual statement, and yet it supports the big lie preached by most prison reformers, and even believed by the more ill informed of them, i.e. the vast majority. On first reading it suggests that if we closed all of our prisons, and sentenced all criminals to community punishments then re-offending will fall by 13%. It doesn’t take much intelligence to spot the logical fallacy here.

Two populations can only be sensibly compared as to their outcomes if they are identical populations to begin with. For example, if it were possible to select two statistically identical groups of persistent offenders, say criminals with the same number of previous community punishments, and give half of then yet another community punishment, and the other half a prison sentence, then some valuable data on re-offending might be collected. But this isn’t how those with a preconceived agenda work. They would have us believe that a re-offending rate comparison can be made between your average criminal who has served a prison sentence, who might have a long history of cautions, fines, community service, and probation orders with someone who is on the first rung of the criminal system ladder. The former group could well contain a high proportion of near hopeless recidivists, after all one has to try hard these days to make it as far as prison, whilst the latter group may not be in this category.

So it’s hardly surprising that, “…re-offending by those on community sentences was at least 13% lower than those released from jail.” Sadly, no valid conclusions can be drawn from the poor quality data presented, but the higher re-offending reported, if true, might equally suggest that either prisons are failing to rehabilitate, that prisons are too soft, that sentences are too short or a combination of all these factors.

If only prison reformers could look at data and draw logical conclusions, rather than using data to support their ideology, then the world might be a safer place with fewer victims of crime.

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Police cell measures come to end tag:www.prisonworks.org,2006://2.95 2006-12-23T12:44:50Z 2006-12-31T11:56:00Z (link) Emergency measures to hold prisoners in police cells are due to end on Saturday, the Home Office has said. The arrangement known as Operation Safeguard came into effect in October to ease an overcrowding crisis in prisons in England... John East http://johnechoices.blogspot.com/ (link) Emergency measures to hold prisoners in police cells are due to end on Saturday, the Home Office has said. The arrangement known as Operation Safeguard came into effect in October to ease an overcrowding crisis in prisons in England and Wales.

The number of inmates topped 80,000 for the first time in history last month.

Data from the National Offender Management Service shows the prison population now stands at 79,627.


Hoorah, the prison population is falling. This must mean that crime is falling……….. doesn’t it?

]]> I’m afraid not. All it means is that murderers now only serve 2-3 years, muggers and burglars serve a few weeks, if any time at all, and persistent petty criminals get persistent petty community punishments.

For example:

(http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/wales/south_west/6204755.stm) A man jailed for five years for the 2004 racist killing of an Iraqi Kurd refugee has been briefly released from prison on a temporary licence.

Lee Mordecai, of Bonymaen, Swansea, was jailed for five years in February 2005 for the manslaughter of Kalan Karim. He was attacked by Mordecai on Swansea's Kingsway in the early hours of 5 September, 2004.

Shortly afterwards, Mordecai struck Mr Karim, 29, with a single blow from behind. He later died in hospital.

This sad state of affairs was at least predictable. When law and order was making the front page earlier in the year New Labour talked tough, but I’m sure that we all knew they would act soft as soon as the media looked the other way.

At least we haven’t been disappointed.

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Offenders put into care? tag:www.prisonworks.org,2006://2.94 2006-11-23T19:24:38Z 2006-11-23T19:55:59Z In the first post in some time (due to work commitments), we find that the government is introducing a "holistic solution" to the overcrowding in our young offenders institutions. Young offenders could be placed in childrens homes - places ordinarily... Alan Drew www.bcaswitzerland.org In the first post in some time (due to work commitments), we find that the government is introducing a "holistic solution" to the overcrowding in our young offenders institutions. Young offenders could be placed in childrens homes - places ordinarily a refuge for the vulnerable. These plans are contained within the Offender Management Bill, which went through its first Reading in the House of Commons on the 22nd November 2006, and also contains the provision to change Probation Boards into business-like Trusts, giving the Home Secretary new powers in the provision of services from the private sector.

It appears that the government haven't considered (at least) one important thing; there is a disproportionately large number of criminals in prison from the care sector.

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BBC Panorama tag:www.prisonworks.org,2006://2.93 2006-11-08T22:02:35Z 2006-11-08T22:14:35Z For anyone who didn't watch this brilliant investigative journalism, then it's currently available online. All of those crimes filmed in the investigation, by those who are supposedly supervised, would not happen if the criminals were in prison. The predatory paedophiles... Alan Drew www.bcaswitzerland.org For anyone who didn't watch this brilliant investigative journalism, then it's currently available online.

All of those crimes filmed in the investigation, by those who are supposedly supervised, would not happen if the criminals were in prison. The predatory paedophiles would not be befriending children if they were not released early. Whilst community based schemes may be the correct solutions for some people, in this particular case they were clearly not. This is partly due to the complete and utter incompetence of the probation service - and partly due to lack of resources.

The buck stops with you, Mr Reid. The only solution is to build more prisons.

Prisons work.

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Parole and probation woes tag:www.prisonworks.org,2006://2.91 2006-11-07T19:21:55Z 2006-11-07T19:57:12Z The first post by me in some time is a news review - several related stories on the probation service have hit the newspapers today. Apologies for not posting more often, but I have been too busy at work. Expect... Alan Drew www.bcaswitzerland.org The first post by me in some time is a news review - several related stories on the probation service have hit the newspapers today. Apologies for not posting more often, but I have been too busy at work. Expect a normal service for the time being.

According to figures published by the Parole Board, a record number of life sentence prisoners freed on parole were recalled in the past 12 months. 140 "lifers" were returned to prison last year, compared with 90 in 2004-05 and 26 in 2000-01 (Times; Mirror; Mail).

In a related issue, John Reid the Home Secretary, has argued that the probation service isn't working as well as it should to tackle the rate of re-offending (Guardian). Another example of the Probation service's failings is that crime victims who give information in parole hearings can risk their attacker finding out because confidentiality is not guaranteed (Telegraph).

And finally, thanks to the BBC, we find out that serious offenders released to bail hostels can come and go as they please - without supervision - to the point where two child sex offenders were filmed befriending children (BBC; Telegraph).

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Seven Years Of Failure To Deal With Rising Violent Crime. tag:www.prisonworks.org,2006://2.89 2006-10-19T17:12:45Z 2006-10-19T19:00:56Z To listen to the torrent of soft-on-crime propaganda being fed to the media by our ruling elite and leading intellectuals at the moment you might be forgiven for wondering if those of us keen to restore a belief in justice,... John East http://johnechoices.blogspot.com/ To listen to the torrent of soft-on-crime propaganda being fed to the media by our ruling elite and leading intellectuals at the moment you might be forgiven for wondering if those of us keen to restore a belief in justice, punishment and a confidence in prison might be mistaken.

Over recent weeks, the soft-on-crime lobby, comprising assorted ranks of New Labour politicians, senior members of the judiciary, the director of the prison service plus countless prison reformers, criminologists, sociologists, and criminal support groups have been waging a battle for hearts and minds. On the other side of the battle line has been the media itself, journalists who have been replying with news headline after news headline exposing the numerous failures of a Home Office not fit for purpose, exposing shocking cases where dangerous prisoners have been released to seriously offend again, or have been given sentences widely thought to have been too lenient.

]]> The British public, who in most opinion polls consistently support tough-on-crime measures including more use of prison, are effectively sidelined in this debate. It must be very confusing for the average person in the street who sees increasing violence within his or her community to be told that it’s all in their imagination, all a matter of perception, and offenders must be released from prison because “prison doesn’t work”.

Here is a reminder how things have progressed over the last six years under a government that desperately wants to be soft-on-crime, but tries to pretend otherwise to avoid losing electoral support.

What follows is a collection of BBC headlines between 2000 and 2006 from reports of the police recorded crime figures which are published every July.


Big rise in violent crime (18/07/2000)
(link)
A dramatic rise in violent crime has been revealed in the government's latest figures - +15.6%.

Violent crime on the rise (19/07/2001)
(link)
Violent crime in England and Wales is continuing to rise, while detection rates by police officers are falling.
Home Office figures unveiled on Thursday showed violent crimes increased by 4.3% in the 12 months ending in March.

Violent crime still on the increase (12/07/2002)
(link)
Violent crime up 11% to 812,000 incidents.


Fight on crime 'being lost' (17/07/2003)
(link)
The government has been accused of losing the fight against crime as police figures showed violent crime was up 2% in the year to April.

Violent crime figures rise by 12% (22/07/2004)
(link)

Police in England and Wales recorded a 12% jump in violent crime over the past year and a 1% rise in crime overall, according to their latest figures.

Violent offences top million mark (21/07/2005)
(link)
Violent offences in England and Wales reached record levels in 2004-5 with police recording one million crimes - up 7% from the previous year.
Police figures show 1,035,046 violent incidents against the person, excluding sexual offences and robberies.

Violent crime still rising.(20/07/2006)
(link)
Violent crime up 2%.

The soft-on-crime proponents have not only been insisting throughout this six year period that community sentences, more liberal prison regimes, or even no prison at all are the ways to reduce crime, they have been in control of the system as well. Government, the legal profession, senior members of the prison service, criminologists and sociologists predominantly have not only supported the soft-on-crime approach they have been actively implementing it.

It’s time that we forcefully pointed out to them that the proof is in the pudding. It’s of little use them telling us over and over again that they are right and we are wrong, whilst violent crime is rising year on year.

]]>
Violent killer escapes from prison day trip for second time. tag:www.prisonworks.org,2006://2.87 2006-10-14T15:45:24Z 2006-10-14T15:50:01Z Here is a typical example of the modern “soft-on-crime” policies currently being pursued with such blind zeal in Britain today. (link) A violent criminal who murdered a man after fleeing a prison boat trip has escaped for the second time... John East http://johnechoices.blogspot.com/ Here is a typical example of the modern “soft-on-crime” policies currently being pursued with such blind zeal in Britain today.

(link) A violent criminal who murdered a man after fleeing a prison boat trip has escaped for the second time - while on a shopping trip to Debenhams.

]]>
Last night there was outrage that Mark Ryder, 37, was allowed to make the day trip despite having escaped jail in the past and killed a man when he should have been behind bars.

Despite his record - and the fact that he was still three years from the end of his minimum term - Prison Service chiefs decided he was trustworthy enough to be escorted on the trip to help prepare him for release. But Ryder, who has a cross tattooed on his forehead, gave prison officers the slip on Thursday afternoon while in a busy branch of Debenhams in the Grafton Centre, in Cambridge.

The former market trader is supposed to be serving a life sentence for murder at Category C Highpoint Prison, near Haverhill, in Suffolk. The prison has previously been nicknamed "Hi-de-Highpoint" - after the television holiday camp - because of its alleged easygoing regime.

Town visits are considered part of "rehabilitation process" needed to prepare prisoners for release.

Ryder was jailed for life for murdering his girlfriend's former lover Stuart McCue, 25, in October 1994 and was given a minimum tariff of 15 years behind bars.

He carried out the killing after spending months on the run from prison officials and the police. Ryder blasted Mr McCue with a sawn off shotgun in May 2003 after spotting him with two children outside a social club on Brighton council estate.

Last night a Suffolk Police source said: "It is outrageous that a prisoner with his record was allowed out on a day trip. Clearly the Prison Service was wrong to trust him to behave responsibly as events have proved."

Local Tory MP Richard Spring said he was astonished Ryder had been let out. "The whole criminal justice system is actually collapsing before our eyes. This is a warning sign to the Government. We have to take the greatest care with people like this throughout their whole sentence. The public are really getting sick of this now."

A Prison Service spokeswoman confirmed that Ryder had been given the escorted day trip to Cambridge to help prepare him for his eventual release. But she refused to discuss why he was given the privilege when he had committed a murder while on the run in the past. She said: "He was issued with a temporary licence to go out for the day, but he failed to return. We are treating it as a licence failure rather than an abscond.

"Prisoners are only allowed out on trips after a very thorough risk assessments. All cases are considered individually on their own merits."

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Child sex offenders to be put on list 99 tag:www.prisonworks.org,2006://2.86 2006-10-13T21:51:22Z 2006-10-13T22:00:51Z We find out today that all child sex offenders will be barred from working with children.... Alan Drew www.bcaswitzerland.org We find out today that all child sex offenders will be barred from working with children.

]]> It's hard to believe that they were ever allowed to, but the blame lies with the complexity of our legal system. A police caution can be given to an adult who admits they committed an offence for which they could have been charged or prosecuted. Police cautions are recorded on the police national computer and can be used in court. When a person is cautioned for a sexual offence, they are also put on the sex offenders' register. If that caution was given to someone in response to a sexual offence against minors, however, they were not added to the list 99 (the register of people barred from working with children).

One might think that it isn't too serious - a teenager putting his hand up a girls skirt, or a drunk taking a pee, could be accused of a sexual offence against a minor - and cautioned. Hardly something to be put onto List 99. However, there are those offences that the police cannot be bothered to prossecute - in 2003 and 2004 there were 444 and 363 people cautioned for making and possessing indecent images of children. And these are certainly not the sort of people we want working in our schools, even if they aren't a specific risk to our children.

Heads up to Dizzy.

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Nearly 8000 offences by tagged criminals tag:www.prisonworks.org,2006://2.85 2006-10-12T18:53:42Z 2006-10-12T19:14:52Z And 1000 of these crimes are violent. One murder, four manslaughters, fifty six woundings and more than seven hundred assaults, one hundred cases of possessing an offensive weapon, one incident of causing death by reckless driving, one hundred of obstructing... Alan Drew www.bcaswitzerland.org And 1000 of these crimes are violent. One murder, four manslaughters, fifty six woundings and more than seven hundred assaults, one hundred cases of possessing an offensive weapon, one incident of causing death by reckless driving, one hundred of obstructing police and sixteen other violent attacks have been carried out by criminals since the early release Home Detention Curfew scheme came into force.

Overall 7,896 offences had been committed by prisoners whilst tagged. A total of 131,000 have been given HDC between the start of the scheme and the end of June 2006, but there is little effect on the 2 year reoffending rate from this scheme. Today’s report said there is "insufficient evidence" that tagging helped to reduce re-offending or rehabilitate criminals. This scheme was introduced to deal with an earlier prison overcrowding crisis - offenders serving between three months and four years are eligible to be released on an electronic tag up to 135 days before the end of their sentence.

The one murderer - Danny Cann, 27, a convicted robber - killed Stephen Cox in North London in January 2005 by battering him to death with a baseball bat and a hammer in revenge for a headbutting, only weeks after walking out of jail on HDC. He was jailed for life at the Old Bailey last December. Cann should have been wearing the tag at the time of the murder but was not. It has never been found.

None of these crimes would not have been committed, if these criminals had been in prison. Furthermore, it is more evidence that non-custodial sentences do not work; we do not have any evidence to show that reoffending is decreased, and the fact remains that nearly 8,000 reported crimes would not have been committed if these criminals had been in prison for the full length of their sentence. Schemes such as these are not a solution to prison overcrowding - the only solution being building more prisons, well before they are needed.

Interesting that the figures have not been announced in a press release on the Home Office website. You can rest assured we will be returning to this issue in more detail, even if the Home Office are not happy to.

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The Arguments of some prison reformers do not stand up to even the mildest scrutiny. tag:www.prisonworks.org,2006://2.84 2006-10-08T20:29:06Z 2006-10-08T20:49:18Z This article is a critique of some arguments presented by three prison reformers in a BBC report published today which explored the current prison overcrowding crisis(link). Needless to say, the building of more prisons did not feature highly in the... John East http://johnechoices.blogspot.com/ This article is a critique of some arguments presented by three prison reformers in a BBC report published today which explored the current prison overcrowding crisis(link).

Needless to say, the building of more prisons did not feature highly in the recommendations of the prison reformers.

]]> Juliet Lyon, director of the Prison Reform Trust said:

“The start of the rise in prison numbers certainly coincided with the murder of the toddler James Bulger by two older boys in February 1993.”
"When you get high-profile and very disturbing cases of that kind you can get a distorted reaction and punishment levels can rise," says Juliet Lyon, director of the Prison Reform Trust.
And it has similarly been suggested that the existing record population of 77,774, reached in October 2005, was partly the result of harsher sentencing after the 7 July bombings.

This is nonsense, and intended to ridicule and belittle the motives of those who support prisons. If the general public experiences more crime, they will naturally call for tougher penalties. This is not a “distorted” reaction, it’s a logical reaction.

Furthermore, it’s the judges who pass sentences, not the Sun newspaper, and I believe that a specific case of child murder would be most unlikely to encourage a judge to jail more burglars or drug addicts. And how one can attribute the previous decades rise in the prison population to the 7 July bombings is way beyond me.


In the same article we get even more ridiculous quotes from Mr Rob Allen of the International Centre for Prison Studies, at King's College, London:

There are now more people appearing before the courts with long strings of convictions who have failed to comply with non-custodial sentences. It may be that courts believe these people have run out of road... and prison is inevitable", he says.

Look at these words again. It is clearly being admitted that prison numbers have been rising because of the increasing number of multiple re-offenders for whom non-custodial sentences have failed. And we are told by prison reformers that the answer is to give these people yet more non-custodial sentences? How does this work?


A third opinion along similar lines was expressed by another expert on prisons.

Chief Inspector of Prisons Anne Owers admits another factor (behind rising prison numbers) is the 250% rise in the number of people recalled to jails for breaching release conditions.
Some 11,081 inmates were recalled in 2004/05, compared with 3,182 in 00/01 - a "staggering" increase, Chief Inspector of Prisons Anne Owers reported in January.

Yet again, and another uncharacteristic admission from this quarter, that “breaching release conditions”, i.e. re-offending whilst still under community supervision, was massively up.

The answer one often sees, “….therefore it’s better not to have locked them up in the first place”, rings a bit hollow. Surely, keeping them in to finish the sentence they were given would have been a more acceptable conclusion to the innocent victims of these criminals.


I’ve left the best quote until last. Juliet Lyon, director of the Prison Reform Trust says:

“Although many people might expect the tougher line on crime to be connected to an increase in offences, this has not been the case….”

What she is driving at here is that increases in prison sentences, if they can ever be justified, can only be justified if they are in response to a concurrent rising crime rate, and if crime levels are falling we should be reducing prison numbers.

This is just plain daft. Life isn’t like this. If prison numbers blindly followed the crime rate then it would be true that, “Prison doesn’t work.” But the figures don’t follow each other in lock step, as Juliet Lyon probably well knows.

Initially, when tough-on-crime policies are adopted, it can take months if not years for these policies to enter the consciousness, and the risk/reward calculations of criminals, and it can take several years more to impact the offending rates of those criminals who are deterred the least, if at all, by the fear of prison. This is because of the greater time lag which occurs as the most recalcitrant criminals go through the lengthy process of arrest-trial-conviction perhaps many times over before eventually being sent to prison.

Let’s look at the evidence. The prison population began to rise significantly around 1993 from a level of 43,000 to 80,000 today. Police records suggest that overall crime levels peaked in the mid-1990’s and are at similar levels today, whilst British Crime Survey indicates that overall crime has been falling since a sharp 1995 peak, although whether this applies to assault, and crimes of violence is a topic for another debate.

Any sensible interpretation of this data would note that after a time lag of up to couple of years, rising prison numbers were associated with a stabilisation or a fall in overall crime levels. A sensible projection of this data must be that continuing to increase prison numbers might continue to drive crime rates down, i.e. Juliet Lyon’s expectation that rising prison numbers should coincide with rising crime is in fact the exact opposite of what we actually see in the data, and is what should be expected if prison works.

Today’s one BBC article which prompted this post illustrates the low quality of the arguments made by the prison reformist movement. This movement has lost much of the support it once enjoyed from the general public, it seems to have given up any appeals to reason, and to have given up presenting any evidence in support of its beliefs.

A cynic might suggest that to support their desire to save money, the government will only employ criminologists who sing from the prison reformist hymn sheet. And the singers will not change the songs which guarantee their income.

If this is true, I believe that the sooner this unhealthy symbiotic relationship is broken the better.

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Prisons full tag:www.prisonworks.org,2006://2.83 2006-10-08T09:52:17Z 2006-10-08T10:09:36Z Over the last few days, we find out that our prisons are full. As of the 5th October, there were only 160 spaces available in the whole country. In August, the Home Office were found out, when their secret plan... Alan Drew www.bcaswitzerland.org Over the last few days, we find out that our prisons are full. As of the 5th October, there were only 160 spaces available in the whole country. In August, the Home Office were found out, when their secret plan to release hordes of dangerous criminals early to our streets was made public. People cannot rob you when in prison - but if released early, they can. This policy has some secondary effects as well - it also demolarises the police. There is nothing more demoralising for police (and victims of crime) to see offenders released early.

The Home Office said "all options" we open to reduce the prison population.It did not take long for the leading classes to decide prison isn't the answer - not because it doesn't work, but because they are too foolish to have spotted this problem a year ago, and build more prisons before it came to a crisis. Now we hear that fewer people should be put in prison in the first place.

So "all options" that they are considering is a wholesale retreat from the one of the most effective ways of reducing crime - putting criminals in prisons.

The best kind of crisis management is that which avoids the crisis. Unfortunately, the chaotic Home Office do not know this. We need to build prisons, not next year, not next month, but now. That is the safest way, and one of the most economical, to deal with the increasing prison population and reduce crime.

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Boot Camps tag:www.prisonworks.org,2006://2.82 2006-10-02T17:02:54Z 2006-10-02T17:14:49Z Last week on my own blog I rather casually suggested boot camps as a possible cure for some of the ills of our society, but admitted that I didn’t know just how effective, or ineffective this criminal justice sanction is... John East http://johnechoices.blogspot.com/ Last week on my own blog I rather casually suggested boot camps as a possible cure for some of the ills of our society, but admitted that I didn’t know just how effective, or ineffective this criminal justice sanction is in practice.

This article is a summary of my investigation into boot camps.

]]> I started with the usual Google search and quickly realised that I was naively strolling onto a battlefield. The first three sites that I clicked on were spoof sites. Pretending to be representing boot camps, but on further reading they were clearly very much anti-boot camp, and were aiming to trash the whole concept of youth custody in a disciplined regime, using assertions and invective rather than evidence. I assume that, following the introduction of privately run boot camps which began to appear in significant numbers in the USA in the 1980’s, a battle royal must have been raging ever since to win hearts and minds.

Whether my impressions expressed in the above paragraph are true or not, the aim of this current study is to assess the effectiveness of boot camps, so I won’t explore the surrounding politics here.

The first legitimate report I came across was one conducted by Patricia Begin for the Depository Services Program sponsored by the Canadian government to evaluate US boot camps as an option for Canada (link).

The Canadian study emphasised the range of correctional facilities which come under this heading, ranging from programmes in which rehabilitative needs of offenders, such as drug treatment, counselling and educational training, are given prominence to others where the emphasis is on work, drill and physical training with minimal or no rehabilitative interventions.

A couple of reports were assessed in Patricia Begins’ study.

In the first report examined, boot camps in eight US states, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, New York, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Texas were assessed. The rates of re-offending of boot camp “graduates” were compared with re-offending rates in comparison groups - male prison parolees, probationers, and boot camp dropouts.

In four of the states, Texas, Oklahoma, Florida and South Carolina no evidence that boot camp prisons had an impact on subsequent re-offending was found. In the remaining four states, boot camps in one of the states (Georgia) were found to increase re-offending whilst studies of boot camps in the remaining three states (Illinois, Louisiana, and New York) were deemed a success, and this success was attributed to the fact these programmes placed more emphasis on education and rehabilitation than on discipline and military drills. The negative outcome for Georgia was attributed to the fact that the Georgia boot camp placed more emphasis on physical conditioning and military-style discipline and offered minimal interventions to address the treatment needs of offenders.

Another report evaluated three demonstration boot camp programs for juveniles in Cleveland (Ohio), Denver (Colorado), and Mobile (Alabama). Re-offending rates were quoted as 32.8% (Denver), 33% (Cleveland), and 20.2% (Mobile). Compare this with typical data often quoted for re-offending following other punishment regimes, for example this UK data:

(link) “The latest figures (2003), show that 73 per cent of young offenders aged 18-21 are reconvicted within two years.
The Home Office’s latest statistics (2003) on community sentences show that of the three main types of non-custodial punishment, Community Rehabilitation Orders, Community Punishment Orders and Community Punishment and Rehabilitation Orders, the failure rate is between 30 and 59 per cent.
Re-offending rates for some crimes are higher when community as opposed to prison sentences have been served: 69 per cent of those serving community sentences for robbery re-offend compared to 53 per cent of those imprisoned.
75 per cent of young offenders who had been placed on an electronic tag were reconvicted within a year of completing the scheme.”

The figures quoted in the Canadian study, re-offending rates of 20 – 33%, seem quite encouraging compared with the examples given above.


The Canadian study concluded that:

“Objective social science research -- the foundation of sound criminal justice policies and programs -- has, however, consistently found that expectations of what these interventions (i.e. boot camps) can achieve have been overly ambitious. They have not demonstrably reduced re-offending behaviour or improved the safety of communities.”


Hmm, is this an unwarranted hatchet job? I think that it may be. I particularly liked the mention of “objective social science research” a clear oxymoron if my experience reviewing such studies is any guide.

A more sympathetic reviewer might equally have concluded from the information presented above that boot camps in seven of the eight US states assessed in the first report were either as good as, or better, at reducing re-offending compared to other initiatives. It should be noted that boot camp schemes also serve the purpose of reducing prison numbers, and are less costly than prison, so merely equalling the effectiveness of prisons with respect to re-offending in itself could be seen as a successful result for this class of punishment.

As for the second report assessed in the Canadian study, the re-offending rates quoted for the boot camps, 20% - 30%, seem to compare favourably with figures quoted for other punishment initiatives (30% – 75% in the UK example that I gave).

At the very least, there is clear evidence overall that boot camps with relatively liberal regimes, resembling the ethos of a national service army training camp of the 1950’s rather than that of a military glass house, can offer a cheaper alternative to prisons for young offenders with potentially lower re-offending rates than found with many community punishment initiatives.

I wonder why the original reviewer, social scientist Patricia Begin, didn’t see things in this light?

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Restorative Justice. tag:www.prisonworks.org,2006://2.81 2006-09-28T11:14:14Z 2006-09-30T19:21:56Z No one can deny that there is an increasing outcry for a tougher criminal justice system from the public. Hence sound bites and spin like “Tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime.” from our government. And yet, in... John East http://johnechoices.blogspot.com/ No one can deny that there is an increasing outcry for a tougher criminal justice system from the public. Hence sound bites and spin like “Tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime.” from our government. And yet, in the world of academic criminology it’s business as usual.

The latest buzz words are “restorative justice.”

(link) A new 'soft justice' row erupted last night as it emerged teenage burglars are being told to paint posters instead of going to jail.

]]> The punishment, handed out by Youth Offending Teams (YOTs), is to draw pictures of the items they would like to steal. The posters are then put on public display so terrified householders know which items to hide from view in case burglars strike.

Alternative 'restorative justice' projects for teenage tearaways include spending two weeks painting a mural of a 'country scene' on the side of a warehouse.

Details of the activities, which now pass for punishment, emerged in a report by Andrew Bridges, Chief Inspector of Probation. The study also revealed a shocking three out of ten teenage criminals sent to YOTs are re-offending while supposedly under supervision.

But Norman Brennan, director of the Victims of Crime Trust, said: 'Who comes up with these barmy, crazy ideas? We need to tell these individuals their behaviour is not acceptable, and highlight the devastation that crimes such as burglary cause to their victims. All these pink and fluffy gimmicks do nothing to reassure a terrified public.'

The YOT decides how they should 'right the wrong' they caused their victim. If they obey the terms and conditions, they will not even have a criminal record for their offence as it is considered 'spent'.

Others sent on the programmes have been given Final Warnings, the juvenile equivalent of a caution, instead of being dragged through the courts.

Of all offenders supervised by YOTs, three out of ten are believed to have engaged in 'criminal activity' during the course of the order. The overall quality of supervision plans was 'generally very low', Mr Bridges said.


I look forward to seeing the evidence that restorative justice programmes deliver what is claimed for them, although I doubt that any evidence will ever be collected and published to this end. I suspect that the primary objectives of such schemes are to provide employment for social workers, and to reduce costs overall (non-custodial sentences are significantly cheaper than prison sentences).

Unless the public continues to press for justice this situation is unlikely to change.

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Police 'did nothing' after young teacher was hit in face tag:www.prisonworks.org,2006://2.80 2006-09-27T22:40:14Z 2006-09-27T22:44:38Z There appears to be a lot of anecdotal evidence these days that our police are increasingly reluctant to tackle crime. Whether this is a resource problem, a reluctance to fill in forms, apathy because they know that the courts will... John East http://johnechoices.blogspot.com/ There appears to be a lot of anecdotal evidence these days that our police are increasingly reluctant to tackle crime. Whether this is a resource problem, a reluctance to fill in forms, apathy because they know that the courts will often put criminals straight back onto the streets, or orders from on high to manipulate crime statistics I cannot say.

I’m sure many of us have a friend or a family member who can tell similar stories to the one below that appeared in today’s press. We certainly seem to be getting more reports like this in the media than we did in the past.


(link) A primary school teacher punched in the face by a drunken thug was stunned when police refused to arrest her attacker.

]]> Abby Houston, 25, was left with a black eye and possible fractured cheekbone after being caught up in a violent brawl at a carnival.

She was at a tombola stall with three eight-year-old girls she was minding when the fight broke out behind them. As she tried to shepherd the children to safety, one of the men struck her in the face with a vicious blow apparently aimed at someone else.

Abby was struck just under her right eye and suffered a huge swelling on her face. Hospital x-rays suggested she has a fractured cheekbone, but the area is too sore at the moment to tell properly.

Moments after the fight at the Pewsey Carnival, in Wiltshire, Abby found two police officers who were standing nearby and demanded they arrest the thug who assaulted her.

But the officers initially ignored her pleas before walking away and refusing to take action. After Abby told one of the officers that the man who did it had run off, he walked away saying: "There’s nothing I can do".

Disgusted by the attitude of the police, Abby started to go home, but when she spotted the thug, she pointed him out to other officers. Despite this, they refused to arrest him and when Abby’s friend protested at their lack of action, one officer threatened to take him in instead.

Abby, who lives in Dulwich, London, said: "I told the police ‘that’s the guy who hit me’ and the policeman went over and spoke to the boy, but didn’t arrest him – he just took his details.

"I said I was positively identifying him then and there and I wanted him arrested.
"But the officer said he wasn’t going to arrest him because there was too much going on.


Last year my wife and I were threatened by a smack head in the street, who was high on drugs and brandishing a hammer and a screw driver. I was very relieved to see a police patrol car stop near the scene, and even more relieved to see the drug addict run over to the police car and start threatening them instead of us, giving us the chance to retreat from the situation. However, when I looked back from a safe distance I was shocked to see that the two police officers were still sat in their car apparently ignoring the tirade of abuse being hurled at them. I was even more shocked when they just drove off leaving the still raging thug stood on the pavement.

So the next time that Tony Blair or some other government minister announces that crime figures are down, or the next time that a prison reformer demands to know why we have so many criminals in our jails when crime is falling, remember this. A particular crime statistic may suggest a falling trend, but one should not assume that this means there is less crime. It could just as easily reflect a lack of interest on the part of the authorities, and a resulting reluctance on the part of the victims to bother reporting crimes committed against them.

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