Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Economic Case for and against Prison.

In 2007 the Matrix Knowledge Group was commissioned by the Monument Trust, the LankellyChase Foundation and the Bromley Trust to carry out research into the economic case for and against prison. The aim of this research was to collect the evidence needed to outline the economic argument for and against prison sentences and their alternatives. The research focuses on how effective a prison sentence is in reducing re-offending, compared with non-prison approaches and asks are prison sentences a cost-beneficial way of reducing offending in those populations who are at risk of further offending?

A copy of this report can be accessed at the top left of this blog or at http://www.lifechangeuk.com/political_background.htm .

Friday, July 18, 2008

Cost of Police Cells

Further to my last blog below and the money allocated for the Titan prisons, it is also worth noting the total overall invoice from Police stations for the use of police cells in 2007 - 08 is estimated to be £53million. Once again, had a proportion of this money been made available to Probation and voluntary sector organisations, one can only speculate as to the number of offenders who might have successfully undertaken alternative community based sentences and programmes.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Shift Titan Prison Money to Community Alternatives

Over the last few months there has been increasing recognition that, with the exception of securing our most dangerous offenders, prison does not work in reducing the re-offending rates of non-dangerous offenders. Rather prison is described as the university of crime and the emphasis is now on increasing community based alternative sentences.

Yet plans for the two to three billion pound Titan construction costs remain. The challenge of course is that the first of these prisons will not be ready before 2012, that is assuming, along side the work for the 2012 Olympics, the builders and staff can be found to construct and subsequently man it.

Critically, as our prison numbers have continued to rise, capacity and cell space has simply run out. Pressures for the shift to Community alternatives is therefore increasing by the day. Unfortunately, capacity here is also limited. Probation staffs are over stretched and voluntary organisations strapped for money.

The crisis is worsening by the day. Clearly, there is a need for urgent action and 2012 is simply too far away. If we agree that community based sentences are the way forward and that prison is not effective, should we not divert the Titan money into community alternatives. By changing the focus of Probation from an 'enforcement agency' to supporting offenders away from crime, as well as increasing the money available to associated voluntary organisations, a major and rapid shift in provision could surely be implemented, negating the need for Titans and helping to reduce the current prison population.

Unfortunately, I suspect that someone in the Treasury will say that such a proposal is not possible because the Titan money is 'ring-fenced' and cannot be used for other purposes. I wonder if this is the case or whether common sense might yet prevail?

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

House of Lords Debate 26 June 2008 - Prison Royal Commission

Lord Ramsbotham has once again taken the lead in addressing and promoting the debate over the state of our prison system. Highlighting the damaging politicisation of the penal system and the continuous weaknesses in the management and leadership within the prison service, he has proposed that a Royal Commission be established to consider and advise the Government and the Prison Service on future structural changes and the operational running of the Service.

Strongly supported by many other eminent members of the House of Lords, let us hope that this marks the start of a meaningful process of continuing debate and positive change. The full debate can be read at - http://www.theyworkforyou.com/lords/?id=2008-06-26a.1610.2