Crime is at lowest level in 25 years, but we now have a record number of serious reoffenders and people in prison

Prison should be a place to teach offenders not to revert back to crime and help them integrate back into society, but it's not doing the job.

Share
Fact File
  • 31.2% The record-high percentage of hardened criminals reoffending
Related Topics

Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Prisons has just published their annual report into places of detention.

This year’s report is particularly interesting, because we are now seeing unprecedented numbers of prisoners in England and Wales. The prison population, in overview, has been rising steadily since the 1990s. From 1999 to 2009, there was a 29% increase in prisoners, and in December 2011, there was a record high of 88,179 prisoners – just 1,100 places below the useable operational capacity.

This has caused problems where a shockingly large amount of prisons are actually overcrowded. According to statistics from April this year published by the Ministry of Justice (Prison population statistics), 85 prison establishments were overcrowded. Not a big deal, you might think, until you realise that this makes up 62% of the entire prison estate in England and Wales. The Prison Reform Trust reported in August that 59% of prisons in the UK are overcrowded. Prisoners are left to ‘double up’ in accommodation – for example, two prisoners might be staying in a room specifically made for one - and this actively impacts on the effectiveness of rehabilitation, not to mention quality of life.

There are a few largely-accepted reasons that prison should be used in modern society: as punishment; for rehabilitation; as a deterrent; as retribution; to prevent further harm and for the safety of the public. The fact that prisons are overcrowded is worrying, particularly as, anecdotally, it’s believed that this makes rehabilitation programmes less effective, which then leads to reoffending. When you look into crime statistics overall, incidents of reported crime have been going down in the last ten years. So how can crime be going down, and the prison population be going up?

Firstly, the riots in August 2011, though an exceptional circumstance, meant that there was a temporary, short influx of people into the prison system. Secondly, the reoffending rate was fairly stable at around 26% in 2010, yet earlier this year it was reportedly at an all time high, with nearly a third of defendants convicted of serious offences had 15 or more previous convictions or cautions.

Prison is an opportunity and a means to rehabilitate offenders, and if these statistics are to be believed, we as a society are failing. Rehabilitating means supporting them the whole time they are in prison, providing them with access to education that they need, and then helping them find employment when they leave.

There is a clear link between education, illiteracy and innumeracy, and offending. HM Government’s report, “Reducing Re-Offending Through Skills and Employment”, found that 52% of offenders had no qualifications at all, and that 67% were unemployed. While there are already programmes in place to provide prisoners with access to education, like the Prisoners’ Education Trust, there is still obviously a gap where prisoners feel they are not getting what they need. Though this was published in 2005, there is no reason to believe that these figures would have changed dramatically. Another report, by the Ministry of Justice in 2008, found that “the most frequently reported need among the sample [of prisoners] was help in finding employment, cited by nearly half (48%) of prisoners, but improving qualifications (42%) and work-related skills (41%) …were also common needs”.

It has been recommended time and time again that the government invest more in prisons and prison services. In a report published in February 2010, the National Skills Forum recommended that “The Ministry of Justice should further explore the inclusion of education and training programmes within the sentencing process” and “should work towards a culture change within the prison system by making participation in education and training an integral part of the daily prison regime”. Again, this is because it’s strongly believed that “exclusion from the labour market significantly increases the probability of an individual reoffending”.

Nick Hardwick, Chief Inspector of Prisons, wrote in the introduction to the annual report: “If a rehabilitation revolution is
 to be delivered, with all the economic and social benefits that promises, there is a pretty clear choice for politicians and policy makers – reduce prison populations or increase prison budgets.” I'll go one step further and say it's likely that the key to reducing prison populations is in increasing prison budgets and using it to widen access to education within prisons.

React Now

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Apprentice IT Technician

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is a company that specializ...

1st Line Technical Service Desk Analyst IT Apprentice

£153.75 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is an innovative outsourcin...

1st Line Helpdesk Engineer Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company has been providing on site ...

Sales Associate Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: We've been supplying best of breed peopl...

Day In a Page

 

Don't trust those who say that Britain is ‘broken’ – time usually proves them wrong

Stefano Hatfield
How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit