‘Prison Works.’ Discuss. Websters dictionary defines prison as ‘a place of confinement especially for lawbreakers; specifically: an institution (as one under state jurisdiction) for confinement of persons convicted of serious crimes.’ The idea and reasoning behind prison has been an issue of great controversy especially in the 20th century. It has been greatly criticised due to its apparent lack of rehabilitation and early releases of paedophiles and rapists, especially in recent news with the release and re-offence of known paedophile Craig Sweeny. However recent data and statistics have shown a significant decrease in levels of crime both in the UK and US. This paper will attempt to give a balanced argument both in support and against the imprisonment system and attempt to answer whether or not prison does in fact work. Prison systems across the world will be looked at and a comparison will be made between systems in the UK and those in other countries. There is a lot of evidence in the form of statistics which shows a decrease in levels of crime and re-offending. Evidence from the US shows that as the likelihood of going to prison increases crime decreases. In the UK statistics show that increasing likelihood of getting caught and being put in prison reduces crime. However there is also the issue of there being serious flaws in statistics offered by the British Crime Survey (BCS). The BCS focuses on crime against an individual, thus eliminating all crime against a business or organisation, including fraud. It fails to take into account “victimless” crimes such as drug offences and crimes such as murder where the victim cannot, for obvious reasons, be interviewed. Rape and other sexual offences are not included, an acknowledgement that many respondents would be unwilling to disclose this information. Crimes against people under the age of 16 are also excluded – removing large numbers of crimes that are common among this age group, such as mobile phone theft and child abuse. There was also a significant change in the way methodology was carried out as new offences were added to categories of crime in April 1998. No distinction was made between new and old offences which made comparing new statistics to old rather difficult. This shows statistics and figures referring to crime should be taken in to account rather carefully as it is difficult to see whether this data is accurate. The Government has set out to reduce crime, but the evidence from a study comparing the policies pursued in the USA with those in England and Wales suggests it has adopted the wrong policies. From the early 1980s until the mid-1990s the risk of imprisonment increased in the USA and the crime rate fell; while in England and Wales the opposite happened: the risk of imprisonment fell and the crime rate increased. Then, from 1993, policy in England and Wales was reversed and the risk of imprisonment increased, though it remained historically low. Even this relatively small increase in the use of prison was followed by a reduction in crime.
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