Tag Archives: Prison reform

Cost-Benefit of Non-Violent Incarceration

One of the UK’s leading newspapers, the Daily Telegraph, recently published an article featuring scathing criticism of the country’s inadequate rate of incarceration for “sex attackers, violent criminals and burglars”.  Like many groups or people who abhor the perceived liberalization or relaxation of the justice system, the Telegraph went on to identify this as a failure of the government to address so-called “soft” sentencing for the worst categories of offenders. The reality of what these numbers reflect may be quite different, however. Richard Garside of the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies provided a sound rebuttal to the alarmist tone of the Telegraph article, suggesting that the numbers presented do not tell the whole story, both in terms the reason for sentencing discrepancies (e.g., was the crime committed one that actually involved violence or was this offender otherwise a threat to public safety?) and the overall rate of crime. Continue reading →

The Privatization Let-Down

Whilst there is a long history to the use of private companies to transport or house prisoners, the use of for-profit prisons in modern times emerged quite recently in the 1980s and 1990s. The governments of countries such as Canada, the United States, Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom have relied increasingly on the use of for-profit private facilities to house inmates, in addition to other services. There has, however, been a momentary stoppage to the utilisation of private services for “tagging” – the post-conviction electronic monitoring of offenders—in England and Wales, as private security giants Serco and G4S have been stripped of these previously-contracted responsibilities after damning investigations into allegations the firms overcharged the UK government. At the same time, damning allegations have been made against HMP Peterborough, a Sodexo-run prison in the UK. These apparent failures and questionable practices have in part led UK Shadow Justice Secretary Sadiq Khan to voice support for the “renationalization” of private prisons who fail to meet rigorous inspection. Continue reading →

Incorporating the Scandinavian system

With the news that Sweden has reduced its overall prison population enough to warrant the closure of four prisons and a remand centre, the ‘liberal’ Scandinavian prison model is again under the spotlight. Countries like Norway, Sweden, and Denmark are often lauded for their humane and distinct prison systems; Bastøy, Norway’s island prison, is often noted for its communal living quarters, extensive access for inmates to education, and, derisively by critics, its “holiday camp”-like atmosphere. Indeed, it appears that this system is at least partially effective – the Council of Europe’s study on Europe-wide rates of recidivism shows that Scandinavian countries have among the lowest rates of both re-offence and incarceration in the region. Continue reading →