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Do you think that in a civilised society prison should only be imposed for the most heinous offences?

(59 Posts)
MiceElf Wed 16-Jan-13 21:53:01

If so, what alternatives do you suggest to reform the offender and force him or her to make reparation for their wrongdoing?

gillybob Wed 16-Jan-13 22:10:20

Sadly there are some people who are not civilised MiceElf and prison is the only place for them. That aside I do think there are people in prison who probably shouldn't be there and others walking around the streets who should be in prison.

I think somehow we need to get to the route cause of why people reoffend. For theft, burglary , drugs and alcohol related crimes is it because their life is so hopeless and they cannot see anyway out?

nanaej Wed 16-Jan-13 22:42:02

I guess that all depends on what a civilised society sees the purpose of imprisonment: protection of society /punishment /retribution/rehabilitation etc.

When it knows that it can then develop a prison service that reflects what it wants it for.
If GB needs to reduce the number in prisons then may be in some cases the 'punishment' could better fit the crime e.g more serious financial deprivation for those who have committed fraud /financial crimes rather than incarceration. Perhaps fining/deducting % of income /savings/property in a way that reflects the level /impact of the crime would be a more effective punishment?

Also greater use of 'detention' ie evening and weekend prison for some offenders! I believe this is used in some European countries with some proven good outcomes.

grannyactivist Wed 16-Jan-13 23:30:54

I've just watched the first episode of'Growing up Poor' on iPlayer. Three 17 year old girls, all having been brought up in poverty play out their lives for the camera, and I find it very sad to imagine what lies ahead for them and for their children. The links between crime and poverty are clear and yet fines for impoverished people (children in this case) are still used as, what? Deterrent, punishment? I have no answers, but as a country I think we need to be looking at the criminal justice system and identifying what works and what doesn't. We need to be acknowledging the links between poverty and crime. Please don't think I'm saying that poverty causes crime; that would be simplistic and untrue, as I know first hand. There are all sorts of issues that need to be examined - think for example of the socialisation of children and how their values, morals and social perception of the world are (at least initially) shaped or influenced by their caregivers.
We most certainly need to be keeping our experienced Probation Staff and allowing practitioners more say in how systems are run; rather than having government 'experts' making policy based on the latest fashion, or what they think will get them the most votes. angry We also need to look at our 'adversarial' judicial system and accept that the main beneficiaries of this are the legal profession.

Greatnan Thu 17-Jan-13 00:20:16

Grannyactivist - I heartily agree with everything you say. The prisons are full of people who are mentally ill, alcoholic or drug addicts. People who have been in care , ex-servicemen and black men are disproportionately represented too. Imprisonment is used as a way of putting 'problem' people out of sight.
The real villains, the ones who run the drug rackets, money laundering, people traffickers, corrupt policemen, judges, bankers and politicians, are virtually untouchable. They can afford bribes, lawyers and accountants. When high profile crooks are finally caught, they often end up in open prisons, or with cushy jobs like librarians.
It will be interesting to see what happens to Rebekah Wade - I am not going to bet on her ending up in Holloway.

Joan Thu 17-Jan-13 06:55:22

Yes, I agree that prison is not the best for many crimes - but it should certainly be used for crimes of violence.

I too believe (non violent) thieves of every description - embezzlers, shoplifters, burglars etc should have to make restitution and do community service. I believe drug use should not be a crime anyway, but drug users who commit crimes to finance their habit should have to go into rehab.

I'm against anything without a victim being a crime.

I really don't think prison terms for violence and murder are long enough. I do think, though, that some form of rehabilitation should take place in all jails.

You know, most criminal activity relates back to a childhood without good examples, safety, love and discipline. More should be done to protect kids from chaotic, violent, savage families.

Of course, nothing will change because change costs money and money is god.

absent Thu 17-Jan-13 08:14:03

It is interesting that in the eyes of our society crimes against the person tend to rank lower than crimes against property. Short prison sentences are a complete waste of time and money and clearly do more harm than good. Prison should be reserved for those who have committed very serious crimes, which should always include crimes of violence, and for those who are thought to be a danger to society. Rehabilitation and education should play equal roles with punishment. Large numbers of prisoners are illiterate and innumerate – how does anyone expect such people to find legitimate work when released?

I should like to see a prison system whereby basic necessities are provided but luxuries, such as access to television or even an armchair have to be earned either through educational attainments or sheer hard graft. If only serious offenders with sentences longer than 12 months were imprisoned, such a system might be more effective than the present warehousing.

whenim64 Thu 17-Jan-13 08:42:19

Yes, agree about non-violent crimes being punished in the community, and I would include intrusive crimes like burglary when people are at home as being serious enough for prison sentences. One-man crime waves are a particular problem, as communities get such relief from their offences whilst they are in prison. I would individualise punishment by profiling them and their offences and keep them from offending by making them work or engage in education under supervision at the times they tend to offend (yes, even in the middle of the night and at weekend), and have them under lock and key during downtime, until they have etablshed a more responsible attitude. Protests about human rights to a family and social life don't wash with me when they are busy depriving others of those rights.

Elegran Thu 17-Jan-13 10:15:48

But all these good schemes for reparation in the community are very labour intensive. They need a generous supervisor/offender ratio, and the supervisors need to be selected and trained so that they help the offenders to develop their own sense of worth and responsibility, and don't treat it solely as punishment. How do you manage and fund that in todays economic and political climate?

whenim64 Thu 17-Jan-13 10:24:50

Elegran That's a good point. It's a fraction of the cost of prison to have offenders under intensive probation and police supervision. If the serial short-sentenced offenders were under appropriate suervision and intervention, the cost of imprsonment would be vastly reduced and prison numbers would fall.

janthea Thu 17-Jan-13 10:48:04

I think there should be prison time for murder, rape, robbery, burglary, any violent crimes and the lengths of their sentences should be as ordered by the judge - not time out for good behaviour! And the sentences should be long!!

Lesser crimes - perhaps they could be put to work which may solve staff shortages in certain areas. And then rehabilitation.

Crimes involving fraud, etc. - they should have to repay their ill gotten gains. Drug dealers' profits should go to their victims.

Foreign criminals should be deported immediately. No European Human Rights Courts disallowing this.
Mentally ill people should receive medical treatment, not prison sentences.

whenim64 Thu 17-Jan-13 11:07:42

I would be concerned about some foreign criminals being deported. For example, a young man I met who sought asylum in the UK to escape the tyrrany of the Taliban. When he was living on the streets and could not get benefits he broke into a warehouse, stole money from the office drawer, returned next night for shelter and was arrested. He got a short prison sentence and was threatened with deportation but allowed to remain because his lfe was in danger if he returned home. He had been forced to live on his wits, and the threat of prosecution was not a deterrent when his life was threatened.

janthea Thu 17-Jan-13 11:24:13

whenim64 I was referring to foreign criminals who committed heinous crimes, not low level crimes. Murders and other violent crimes such as have been in the papers recently.

whenim64 Thu 17-Jan-13 11:42:50

Ok, I see what you mean, Janthea. Here's a challenge - a Jamaican man I interviewed was charged with three sexual assaults of prostitutes. He was threatened with immediate deportation as soon as he was convicted. Probation argued that he should serve his sentence here, as he would walk off the plane and not serve a sentence or be supervised, and would be a very high risk of doing the same again. He stayed in the UK and wasn't deported immediately. I think that was the right thing to do, although it cost UK taxpayers a lot of money. (I do think we should be able to recoup money from other countries, but nothing in place).

janthea Thu 17-Jan-13 13:44:49

whenim64 There should be some way of ensuring that they served their sentences back in their country. Impossible, I know, but this is only hypothetical anyway.

gillybob Thu 17-Jan-13 14:12:07

janthea I have two problems with this.

One being if there is "no time off for good behaviour" then there is no incentive to behave in prison. I think there needs to be some incentive and the only one I think that can really work is the though of getting out a wee bit early. Although I don't mean halving a sentence.

Genuine mentally ill patients should not go to prison I agree but how many cases do you hear of where a criminal plays the "I am mentally ill and therefore......." card? in some cases they claim mental illness in order to avoid a trial completely.

Not sure what the real answer is though.

whenim64 Thu 17-Jan-13 14:38:32

gillybob there are many mentally ill prisoners who don't want to be taken out of the prison system because they (usually wrongly) fear they will stay locked up for longer than a fixed term in prison. Claiming mental illness in relation to serious crime so the Health department has responsibility means that, if accepted and placed in a locked health unit, the secretary of state has to agree every stage that restrictions are reduced, such as being allowed to move accompanied within the perimeter of a locked area of regional secure units or special hospitals, or getting ground parole. Many mentally ill prisoners would rather take their chances of seeing a psychiatrist on the hospital wing of a prison, and be released to the psychiatric unit of a local hospital on their fixed release date.

The whole system is a mess, with many mentally ill people being diverted from custody when they need a secure setting for their own and the public's protection, and many mentally ill people locked up when they just need treatment.

gillybob Thu 17-Jan-13 16:06:36

Thank you for that when very interesting. I guess you know a lot more about it than me which I must confess is very little. However I wonder, is it really possible to fool the authorities/courts/whatever into thinking one is "mentally ill" or would the "act" be quickly uncovered?

I think what I was getting at is that I have heard quite a few news items where the "criminal" is deemed not mentally fit to stand trial (yet mentally aware enough to commit the crime?) hmm

whenim64 Thu 17-Jan-13 16:54:36

The ones who fake mental illness tend to get found out, as it's not easy to keep it up, especially when cases are adjourned for assessments which can take weeks or months. Offenders who brag that they fooled the judge are kidding themselves. Any highly dangerous offender who tries this tactic wouldn't tell others they are doing it unless they are the type who perceive status in being judged mentally ill, and that would come to the attention of the authorities soon enough. It's a bit of a myth that you can fool the court into believing false claims of mental illness. Easy to claim depression, but that wouldn't affect the outcome.

whenim64 Thu 17-Jan-13 17:01:44

There was an MP not fit to stand trial recently, wasn't there? She was well aware of what she had done, but her mental health had deteriorated sufficiently for the authorities to decide it wasn't in the public interest to make her stand trial, and I think they did some sort of bargain to ensure she continued with psychiatric treatment and made reparation.

cheelu Thu 17-Jan-13 17:08:57

When criminals go to prison they usually learn new tricks from other in mates.

I think that the Law in the UK is toooooo lenient on serious crimes like Murder

I believe that in stead of chucking offenders in a place were they can only get worse they should be offered help with gaining good life skills--because lets face it most criminals have had a horrid start to life and sometimes they need good guidance and helped with gaining life skills..... I think they should still be punished for their crime but be made use of in the community rather than send them to jail...

Jail IMHO should be for criminals that are of any danger to the public in any way..

Ana Thu 17-Jan-13 17:09:44

She was given a two year supervision and treatment order. I don't know about reparation.

cheelu Thu 17-Jan-13 17:10:25

Brilliant thread by the way....

whenim64 Thu 17-Jan-13 17:55:17

Ana the reparation judgement is that she pays the £60,000 back that she had wrongly claimed.

Ana Thu 17-Jan-13 18:07:21

Thanks, when - there was no mention of that in the report I read.