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Prisons -do we lock too many people up?

(46 Posts)
suzied Mon 07-Nov-16 06:40:10

I know someone whose 60+ year old husband is at her Majesties Pleasure for what we might call a white collar crime to which he pleaded guilty and is very remorseful. He should be out in 12 months. My OH is writing to him and will visit. It's got me thinking- what is the point of locking someone up for 23 hours a day at vast expense in a violent dangerous place with not enough staff? Of course punishment is necessary , but surely society would be better served if non violent offenders were made to , say work full time for a charity, or helping other offenders with literacy etc. Why increase prisoner numbers and cut staffing? Surely that is a recipe for disaster?

mumofmadboys Mon 07-Nov-16 07:02:49

I couldn't agree more. If someone is not a danger to society , community service is a much more useful punishment to society. Prison needs to be so much more rehabilitative so there is less reoffending. It is very worrying how many of our prisoners have learning difficulties and mental health problems.

Anya Mon 07-Nov-16 07:09:57

I think sentences are more often handed out or fraud, embezzlement and other 'with collar' crimes and too often violent offenders get off with suspended sentences.

Whether we should commute sentences for these middle class crimes I don't know, but I'm not comfortable with what amounts to just a beefed up community sentence.

Much better if we stopped cutting back vital services and funded things properly.

cornergran Mon 07-Nov-16 08:07:04

Not sure what the answer is but I have always struggled with the concept of funding a prison space for a non violent offender while those committing violence are dealt with differently. I guess if you or a family member had been financially abused prison may be your first thought for the offender. I don't know what the answer is, but the current system definitely isn't working.

henetha Mon 07-Nov-16 11:11:22

I've thought for years that too many people are sent to prison when they are no real danger to the public, especially when our prisons are so overcrowded and prison officers so overstretched.
There are other ways; in the case of fraud or financial misdemeanors then hit them financially where it hurts.
Community service, properly run, is far better for society than locking non-dangerous people up.

Jane10 Mon 07-Nov-16 11:30:55

My experience is that a very high proportion of offenders have learning disabilities and/or mental health problems plus a difficult unhappy life experience. Genuine rehabilitation is most unlikely. It would be so much better if the life circumstances of these people had been such that the situations leading to their imprisonment simply didn't arise. There's research indicating that a percentage have specific language difficulties which can lead to lack of comprehension of situations and implications for behaviour. Additionally, if they could express their thoughts more clearly, it would reduce the likelihood of an instant recourse to violent reaction. I believe that prisons are now employing Speech and Language therapists. Also, now I come to think of it, the introduction of a good nutritional diet has been found to have a beneficial effect on behaviour in young offenders.

Rigby46 Mon 07-Nov-16 11:52:07

Jane10 - what a very thoughtful post. I wonder why we imprison more people than nearly all other European countries?

gillybob Mon 07-Nov-16 12:05:02

I think a lot of this has to do with how much we value possessions over anything in this country.

Prisons should be a last resort for everyone except violent offenders.

Rigby46 Mon 07-Nov-16 12:09:58

I agree gillybob but there are some so called white collar crimes that ruin people's lives by stealing their life savings or pension funds. But those 'crimes' often go completely unpunished whilst we lock up someone who has not paid their fine for not having a TV licence

Jane10 Mon 07-Nov-16 12:12:18

I agree that other forms of punishment should be available for 'white collar' crimes. However, there are some people who do such despicable things that I don't think they should have the freedom to offend again and for whom there is a strong risk that they might. Of course, deciding whether this is appropriate in individual cases is extremely difficult. I sometimes wonder how parole boards feel when they free someone who immediately goes out and e.g. rapes some poor young girl. No easy answers.

petra Mon 07-Nov-16 12:19:41

Some years ago I had a friend who went to prison twice for fraud. The second prison was Holloway where all she learnt was how not to get caught.
She had been dealt a loosing hand. The child of a mixed relationship, she didn't feel that she belonged in either world. Adopted by white parents and abused by the father, tracked down her birth mother who told her to ' go away, I don't want to know you'

Rigby46 Mon 07-Nov-16 12:24:54

Jane10 that doesn't happen very often though ( fortunately). Risk assessment is so difficult - risk averse and we keep people in prison , the other way and we possibly endanger the public

janeainsworth Mon 07-Nov-16 12:29:39

A few years ago a dentist was convicted of defrauding the NHS of £1.4million by claiming for work she hadn't done.

That was a white collar crime.

I felt that prison was an appropriate punishment for her.

The thing about fraud is that it is pre-meditated and knowingly carried out over a period of time. While fraudsters are probably not a physical danger to society, they are often people in positions of trust and it is the erosion of that trust that is damaging, as well as the financial losses they have occasioned.

I'm not sure that community service or a fine reflects the seriousness of the offence.

Jane10 Mon 07-Nov-16 12:41:38

I would imagine that a really swingeing fine would be more appropriate for serious fraudsters. I mean in the millions. Impoverishment might hurt much more than 6 months in some open prison then back to the yacht! The confiscated money could be used to repay those defrauded with some over to put into crime prevention work.

janeainsworth Mon 07-Nov-16 12:58:24

She got 7 years, Jane10

Jane10 Mon 07-Nov-16 13:20:35

Out in 3? A nice time in an open prison attending creative writing classes and going to the gym?

janeainsworth Mon 07-Nov-16 13:31:03

Do you really think people have a 'nice time' in prison jane10?
I have always thought it must be a degrading experience.

gillybob Mon 07-Nov-16 13:34:42

I agree janeainsworth the worst thing in the world for me would be being locked up and not being able to see my husband, children and grandchildren. I wouldn't care if I had 5 star food, a luxury suite and sky TV etc. the punishment would be the loss of liberty and not seeing my family.

Rigby46 Mon 07-Nov-16 13:38:03

Really clever fraudsters hide their money away and do never have it taken away from them

suzied Mon 07-Nov-16 13:40:46

My friends OH is locked up 23 hours a day due to staff shortages. Shares a cell with who knows who. No education or gym. Exercise sometimes happens sometimes doesn't. No assessment again due to staff shortages so no sign of getting sent to any open prisons which are full up anyway. Drugs and contraband and violence are rife Hope the promises to reverse the staff cuts are kept. What's the betting? Surely we could devuse a more humane and worthwhile system.

janeainsworth Mon 07-Nov-16 13:42:32
Joyce Trail had to pay back the money to the NHS as well as going to prison. She will never work in dentistry again either.

gillybob Mon 07-Nov-16 13:43:07

I agree Rigby46 and suzied.

Jane10 Mon 07-Nov-16 14:11:19

I have to say that I had a client who absolutely loved his time in prison! He liked the structure to life, the plain decor, the timetable and even the food! He was a transparently nice chap so I think that he was sort of looked out for by the others. His poor wife was miserable but he still smiles when he thinks about his time in gaol!

Daddima Mon 07-Nov-16 14:20:19

I worked with families where the dad was in jail, and their opinions were very interesting. The men seemed to agree that if your first spell in prison was longer than 4 weeks, you got used to it, and the prospect of a return wasn't too bad.
They did, however, appreciate that it was their partner who had to cope with finances, childcare, travelling to visit etc.
And I agree with Jane10, if they were in any way " decent", their friends did look out for them, and they were a supportive group.
Mind you, the ones who volunteered for the course were " better behaved" prisoners, many of whom left with electronic tags.

Christinefrance Mon 07-Nov-16 17:03:55

After hearing about the riots and conditions in prison today I may be having a rethink about the type of criminal we lock up. As Daddima says it is the wives and families who suffer a great deal not just the prisoner. There does have to be some recompense however and that means supervision and money spent. I have some experience of criminals working with groups of vulnerable people and there were great successes but also failures. I am not sure what the answer is but the victims do need to see justice being done. Not sure what happens in other countries maybe someone has a better solution.