Are Custodial Sentences the most economical and effective way of Crime Prevention?

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Custodial sentences are supposed to be an efficient way of reducing crime, enforcing punishment for the crime committed. The main aims of custodial sentencing is Retribution , Denunciation ,Deterrence ,Rehabilitation and Reparation, but are custodial sentences always the most economical and best way of crime prevention? The idea of Retribution is to enforce a punishment on the offender as a result of the actions and the crimes they have committed. Denunciation is aimed to be a way of acknowledgment and highlighting the fact of society’s un-acceptance and zero tolerance policy of crimes being committed without being punished. This should give satisfaction to society that there is justice being done to criminals.[1] Lord Denning described denunciation as: ‘’Punishment is the way in which society expresses its denunciation of wrong doing, and in order to maintain respect for the law it is essential that the punishment inflicted for grave crimes should adequately reflect the revulsion felt by the great majority of citizens for them.’’[2] Custodial sentences are supposed to be also used as a Deterrence and a preventative measure to prevent crimes from being committed in the future by giving harsh sentences for crimes the government hopes this will prevent crimes being committed in the future especially where harsher sentences are given.[3] One of the main aims of rehabilitation is to reform and rehabilitate them so that when they are released back into society they are educated and that they are less likely to commit crimes when they are released. It is beneficial for offenders to be educated and have access to qualifications whilst being imprisoned which makes the time spent inside beneficial and then once rehabilitated have the skills they need to find a job when released back into the community so that they dot have to resort back to crime as a way to make money.[4] The main aim of rehabilitation is to reform the offender and rehabilitate him or her into society, so that they are less likely to commit offences in the future. This is either because they either learn to see the harm they are causing to society or because they learn through education, training and other forms of help. It is an aim that looks into the future of the defendant. It has the hope that the offender¹s behaviour will be altered by the penalty imposed, so they will not re-offend in the future. Reparation allows compensation to the victims of the crimes where the courts have the power to order the offender to repay and give compensation to the victim for the crime they have committed. In an ideal world custodial sentences are supposed to be the most beneficial way of crime prevention although this is in theory, in practice this is not always the case. For example certain criminals offend to feed a drug or alcohol addiction. We know for more serious crimes and repeat offenders that custodial sentences are the only option however in some other less serious crimes it may be more cost effective and economical if the offender had to pay compensation not only to the victim but also the same or even more to the government. This could become a more effective way in crime reduction if offenders actually have to pay money as opposed to just going to prison where in fact the government and the tax payer have to pay for them, shelter, feed and clothe them rather if the criminals were the ones who had to pay this may give an income to the government as well as compensating the victims. In Section 152 9 (2) Of The Criminal Justice Act 2003 (amended in 2012 LASPO), states that, ‘’ ‘The court MUST NOT pass a custodial sentence unless it is of the opinion that the offence, or the combination of the offence and one or more offences associated with it, was SO SERIOUS that neither a fine alone nor a community sentence can be justified for the offence’ There are certain restrictions as per Section.79 (2) of the Powers of Criminal Courts Service Act 2000 (PCC(S)) that:-
  1. That the offence, or the combination of the offence and more or more offences associated with it , was so serious that only such a sentence can be justified for the offence; or
  2. Where the offences are a violent or sexual offence, that only such a sentence would be adequate to protect the public from serious harm.[5]
Custodial sentences in this context may not always be the most effective way of crime prevention and rehabilitation of the criminal and further preventing crimes from being committed in the future. However this may be beneficial to society if the offender poses certain risk to the general public however offenders at this level often have a total disregard for the law an often do not mind going to jail as jail offers a warm bed with food and shelter often many offenders don’t have this in society. Housing offenders in prison is very costly to the government and the tax payer. In a report disclosed by the Minister of Justice for 2012-13 state the cost of housing one prisoner alone a Male CAT B prisoner to be £33,632. [6] It can be said by some that criminals are just thrown into prison without actually doing much in order to rehabilitate the criminals this can be seen clearly due to the overcrowding of the prison population. In Lord Carters review in 2007 of prisons, ‘Securing the Future’, where he predicted that from June 2014 that there will be a lack of prison places and their could potentially be a shortfall of places as high as 13,000. That puts more pressure on the government to provide funds and build new prisons in order to facilitate the ever increasing amount of criminals being put in prison.[7] Due to prisons being overcrowded this has consequently had a knock on effect an disrupted the rehabilitation of prisoners , since prisoners are often moved around as the prison service tries to facilitate the fluctuation in prison numbers and to relieve themselves from stress. This means educating the offenders is often interrupted and/or neglected as a result and often before they are able to finish completing courses they have started.[8] The fact prisoners are being moved around makes it difficult to maintain and set out plans for rehabilitating individuals, so as a result making prisoners employable when they finish their sentence becomes more difficult resulting in repeat offenders committing crimes and then again ending back in jail at the cost of the tax payer. This cycle will continue if significant changes are not made to the justice system in the up and other authorities who work together. The lack of failing to work together effectively comes at a huge price to the government and the tax payer and wastes funds, In an Audit conducted by ‘The National Audit Office’, they held that 62% of court proceedings in the UK that cases were not successful and did not go ahead due to drop in charges on the day of the hearing or poor preparation and lack of evidence which caused cases to be dropped.[9] If the British justice system were more inclined to rehabilitating and educating offenders as opposed to just putting them in jail and paying little attention to the rehabilitation, they may find huge savings the government and the British tax payer. In a report by the ‘Matrix Knowledge Group’, who made a report called,’ For and Against Prison’; they made some remarkable predictions relating to this matter. The aim of their report was too collect evidence which was needed to identify and outline and argument for and against offenders being served with custodial sentences , including alternatives and an economic forecast of the current costs and the potential savings that could be earned by rehabilitating individuals as opposed to just putting them in prison.[10] In the Case R v Howells (1999) Lord Bingham stated that : ‘’There is no bright line which separates offences which are so serious that only a custodial sentence can be justified from offences which are not so serious as to require the passing of a custodial sentence’ (pg. 103)[11] The Matrix report stated that if there were to be adult community interventions and Drug rehabilitation available in the community for offenders known as ‘Drug Treatment Alternative To Prison Programme (DTAP)’ , where offenders will be put on intense programmes , inclusive of group sessions with in their community which would help to teach them social skills and values , help to become drug free, behavioural help also including educational programs which would help to make offenders employable and have a life which is positive an make them not dependant on drugs. [12] If operations were available like this in the community it would cost around £5,299 per offender each year this is not a lot compared to the cost of housing offenders in prison . These types of community intervention could give a massive saving to the government the matrix report predicts that there could be a saving of £88,469 to the tax payer alone, and a further saving of £202,775 just for educating the offenders and preventing crimes which would give a saving to the victim costs alone.[13] There are other forms of sentencing that are available as opposed to custodial sentences for example in the Criminal Justice Act 1991 was when the Probation Order became a sentence in its own right this gave an increase in community sentences in 1992 the increase was 18% , and in 2002 it had increased again to 25%. Although these figures did not however reduce custodial sentences being given these figures were in addition to custodial sentences due to increase in crime.[14] To conclude it can be clear by the research and studies that have been taken to address the issue, of weather if custodial sentences are economical and cost effective way of crime prevention? Or that by sending prisoners to jail for some time where they can do no harm for the duration of the sentence is not always efficient or cost effect and/or if it even prevents crime at all? There is no doubt for certain kinds of prisoners a custodial sentence is the only option , but if there were alternatives made available by the justice system in communities this would give better value for money spent by way of rehabilitating offenders as opposed to just sending them to prison. Research has identified that adult based community schemes are shown to be the best and most likely to be more effective way of crime prevention in the UK. Bibliography Michael Cavadino and James Dignan, ‘The Penal System: An Introduction (London: Sage, 2007, 4th Edition) Aileen Murphie, 'Measuring the effectiveness of prison on sentences in England and Wales ' (http://www.justice.gouv.fr/art_pix/MurphieWilkins.pdf http://www.justice.gouv.fr/art_pix/MurphieWilkins.pdf Roger Matthews, ‘Doing Time An Introduction to the Sociology of Imprisonment (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009, 2nd Edition http://www.justice.gouv.fr/art_pix/MurphieWilkins.pdf www.matrixknowledge.com/vendor/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/10-economic-case-for-and-against-prison.pdf http://merlin/reports/nao/0506/n0506798.pdf http://sentencingcouncil.judiciary.gov.uk/sentencing/custodial-sentences.htm http://www.sentencingproject.org/doc/Deterrence Briefing .pdf
[1] http://sentencingcouncil.judiciary.gov.uk/sentencing/custodial-sentences.htm [2] http://www.peterjepson.com/law/aoife - sentencing.htm [3] http://www.sentencingproject.org/doc/Deterrence Briefing .pdf [4] http://www.justice.gouv.fr/art_pix/MurphieWilkins.pdf [5] http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2000/6/contents [6] https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/ministry-of-justice/about/statistics [7] news.bbc.co.uk/2/shared/bsp/hi/pdfs/05_12_07_prisons.pdf [8] http://www.justice.gouv.fr/art_pix/MurphieWilkins.pdf [9] http://merlin/reports/nao/0506/n0506798.pdf [10] Matrix report ‘ For and Against prison’ , Blackboard [11] R v Howells ,Blackboard [12] Matrix Report , Blackboard [13] Matrix Report, Blackboard [14] Lecture 8 Slides Blackboard
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