23 July 2006

Off-shoring Prisons

There are now approximately 80,000 inmates in UK prisons and about the same number of prison places. Certain prisons house more inmates than there are "certified places". Police cells and (scandalously) open prisons have been used to manage overflow. Despite the fact that the Home Office has seen this crisis point coming, no provision has been made in terms of extra prison places. The recent Keith Report was a damning indictment into failures in the prison service. 88 recommendations were made. A key root cause for these failures was identified as prison overcrowding.

Before moving on, let's remind ourselves of a few of the basic purposes of prison - punishment, deterrent and rehabilitation. Despite the right-wing rhetoric Labour ideologues at there core do not really believe in punishing or even deterring criminals because they believe their crimes are society's fault not the individual. Their heart is not in prison punishment so they can't bring themselves to take the necessary steps to make it work - the most fundamental omission being a failure to create more prison beds. Keen to ensure that the punishment is only a depriviation of liberty and no more, prisoners find themselves increasingly pampered with facilities from TVs to drugs to drugs treatment. I could be forgiven for thinking that a proxy for the success of a UK prison is how closely it resembles a hotel with prisoners as guests and warders as obsequious concierges. No wonder a prison place costs the taxpayer approximately £30k a year (that's about £80 a night to you and me).

Labour does believe in rehabilitation in even the most hopeless of cases, but due to the overcrowding they do not and can not succeed. Reoffending rates are at an all-time high. And then to rub salt in the wound Leftie bloggers such as Bob Piper ask whether prison works. Not under Labour it doesn't, is my reply. Given the latest raft or crime figures and sentencing rules it's not unreasonable to estimate that there will be close to 100,000 prisoners by the end of the decade.

I would like to propose to off-shore prisons for the following reasons.

1. Alleviation of short-term overcrowding
2. Significantly lower cost per head alllowing resources to be used elsewhere
3. Stronger deterrent effect
4. Less visits likely and less facilities provided so these institutions would be a stronger punishment than UK jails
5. By dispersing prisoners to places where they can not speak the language or understand the culture these institutions will not serve their desire to become better criminals.
6. Ability to imprison persistent offenders (Labour currently only imprisons very serious offenders or seriously persistent offenders) thus increasing deterrent in another way
7. Due to the overseas prisons being seen as a stronger punishment we can reduce sentencing time thus reducing the chances of prisoners becoming institutionalised
8. It is less likely that foreign criminals will be mistakenly released into the UK.
9. Victims of crime could have a say in where the criminals serve their sentence. Beautiful , if I do say so myself.

NB Remember that it remains Lib Dem policy to give prisoners the vote. At the same time they are also on the record as saying expats like me shouldn't be able to vote.


Chris Palmer said...

I would agree with the above. Labour under Tony Blair, especially at a grassroots level, never changed their ideas - it was all spin; being "tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime," the lot.

To the above points, I would add these:

11) A life sentance actually means life. Not 20 years, not 7 years. Life. You're inside until the day you die.
12) Generally tougher/increased sentances for most crimes - and higher minimum sentances.

I do vaguely recall that there are a couple of floating, what could only be described as rust-buckets, in the English channel which were placed in WW2. These could be converted into prisons - though probably at substantial cost, so potentially not that viable.

I'll add a link to your blog from mine when I get a chance.

Praguetory said...

Chris - Cheers for being the first person to post. Your blog is excellent by the way.

fencer said...

Hi PragueTory,

Have you read Papillon? - ok you can answer that another time. But if you haven't I recommend you do.

Your idea of off-shoring prisons strikes me as the kind of idea that an accountant would come up with...Seriously it sounds like a rubber stamp job without considering the future of people's lives. Just like Nuclear Waste, our social misfits and potential prisoners are our responsibility.

Also, Life should mean Life, but rather than hand out life sentences like detentions, we should mean it when we say it. And when we mean 15 years say 15 years.

Web site is excellent.


Praguetory said...

JI - Appreciate the comments.

The off-shoring I propose doesn't mean lower standards. I am livid with the low standards we have at the moment. I am against the abolition of the Prison Inspectorate, overcrowding and lack of educational opportunities for prisoners.

I haven't read Papillon - I'd like to - but I think I get the gist. I am a big fan of prison books (e.g. Green River Rising by Tim Willocks)/films ( e.g. Brubaker)

I agree that we should mean what we say when it comes to sentencing but studies seem to show that longer sentences have little deterrent effect and a negative effect on rehabilitation - you could say I am in favour of the short, sharp shock

Croydonian said...

I can see the appeal of the idea, but I'll give you Lombard Street to a rotten orange that there would be a blizzard of lawsuits under the Human Rights act over 'the right to family life'.

And you should certainly read or watch 'Papillon' - masterful performances from McQueen and Hoffman in the latter. Details here

beethoven writes said...

If life meant life for all lifers, the prison authorities would find it very difficult to control them. The incentive of a shorter sentence for good behaviour is an effective carrot for the Prison service.

I'm afraid I don't believe in all this lock 'em up and throw away the key theory. You make some good points but you do not mention that approximately 80% of inmates have mental health problems. Our prisons are being used as substitutes for mental hospitals. It's all very sad really.

Praguetory said...

Thanks for visiting injured cyclist. Read your blog the other day. Your posts describing the accident was excellently written. I don't recall ever reading such a graphic account of an incident in fact or fiction. I hope you found writing it therapeutic. Also, I think you make a few good general points about cycle travel not being a panacea.