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

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Client Account Executive

£23000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Client Account Executive is r...

Recruitment Genius: Telemarketing Executive

£7 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Full Time position available now at a growing...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + competitive + incentives + uncapped comms: SThree:...

Ashdown Group: Reporting & Analytics Supervisor - Buckinghamshire - £36,000

£34000 - £36000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Analytics & Reporting Tea...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Daily catch-up: the SNP’s ‘fundamental problem’, says Corbyn, is that too many people support it

John Rentoul
An investor looks at an electronic board showing stock information at a brokerage house in Shanghai  

China has exposed the fatal flaws in our liberal economic order

Ann Pettifor
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future