Criminology, probation and stuff

Some musings on criminology with a focus on probation

New prison ‘to be worth millions’

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I think there is something particularly depressing about the fact that the building of a new prison is applauded because it will improve the local economy, as stated in this article: New prison ‘to be worth millions’. Prison building should not be a job creation exercise. Public sector job creation may be an effective way to improve the economy but surely it would be more effective, positive and constuctive for the state to use money to build schools, better public transport infrastructure or more effective public services.

The only advantage I can see is that people from North Wales will be imprisoned closer to home which, if one is willing to accept the government’s strategy of locking people up, can only be a good thing. But, when the Justice Minister unquestioningly accepts that ‘it seems as though we have built up a sort of national propensity towards prison over the years’ one suspects that a reduction in the prison population is not on the horizon.

Jack Straw’s speech is unusual in that he seems to be saying that he likes community punishment and we should use it more often. However, I don’t take statements like ‘far from being simply a way of managing down the prison population’ at face value. He goes on about community punishment giving people a real chance to reform so maybe he believes that that is what community punishment’s main aim is. But, then, he says that ‘prisons are now genuinely places of punishment and reform’ in a similar way to probation in which ‘the new stated aim of the probation service [is] to ‘punish, help, change and control’ offenders. So it is only right that probation staff now see themselves as part of the correctional machinery rather than simply an extension of social services.’ It is clear that, far from seeing  community punishment as an alternative to prison, he sees it as serving the same aims as prison- an extension, more than an adjunct to, of a system (or service as he likes to call it) which has punishment as its main aim. He really, sincerely believes in the power of punishment and while we have a Justice Minister who belives that, we will be seeing ever more increases in the prison population and a greater focus on punishment in the probation service.


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Written by criminologyandstuff

February 9, 2009 at 10:12 am

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