1 Prison population
Combined, England and Wales has the highest rate of imprisonment in western Europe, according to the Council of Europe’s annual penal statistics [*1].
The prison population in England and Wales has stabilised at nearly 86,000 in recent years but the incarceration rate, at 148.3 prisoners per 100,000 population, remains higher than in Spain (137.9), France (98.3), Italy (86.4) and Germany (77.4). [*2] (Note the UK rate is nearly double the Germans’.)
Since 1945, the total [UK] prison population has increased from around 15,000 to 85,000 [*3].
In the same period, the populations of England and W increased from 41.0 million to 56.0 million [*4].
This means the prison population has more than quadrupled between 1945 and 2016: from 366.85 per million of the whole population to 1517.86 per million.
Virtually all of the increase in the prison population since 1993 is due to the increase in the Immediate Custodial Sentenced (ICS) population [*5]. The Russell Webster website explains [*6]:
1: More people are being sentenced to immediate custody
2: People are being sentenced to longer periods of imprisonment (average sentence length has grown from 16 months in 1993 to 18.8 months in 2015)
That’s the main two reasons for the doubling of our prison population according to a recent (29 July 2016) report from the MoJ [the one I am citing]
Part of the explanation for this is that, at least since 1999 [*7],
The average time spent in prison (including time spent on remand) for determinate sentenced prisoners has increased. Those released in 1999: 8.1 months, those released in 2015: 9.9 months. [*8]
2 Does prison work?
I am seeking the longest term figures. So far, for 2004-2015:
Around 107,000 of the 440,000 adult offenders in this year [april 2014 to march 2015] were proven to have committed a reoffence within a year, giving a proven reoffending rate of 24.3% which represents a small decrease of 0.9 percentage points compared to the previous 12 months and a fall of 1.2 percentage points since 2004. This rate has been fairly flat since 2004 fluctuating between 24.3% and 25.4%.
Around 345,000 proven reoffences were committed by adults over the one year follow-up period. Those that reoffended committed on average 3.22 reoffences each.
Generally, offenders with a large number of previous offences have a higher rate of proven reoffending than those with fewer previous offences. In the cohort, the proven reoffending rates for adults ranged from 7.5% for offenders with no previous offences to 44.7% for offenders with 11 or more previous offences. Adult offenders with 11 or more previous offences represented just under a third of all adult offenders in the cohort, but committed over two thirds of all adult proven reoffences. [*9]
It would seem that, if you don’t catch a first offender while they are serving time for that offence, you are setting up a pattern which becomes increasingly ingrained.
The cost of jailing a young criminal is £140,000 per year [*10]. (It will cost £38700 in 2017/18 to educate a boy at Eton for three terms; obviously thewre will be costs accomodatingf pupils out of term time: maybe that would increase the total cost per year of an Eton pupil to, say, £70000.)
Imagine five such young criminals serving a nine month sentence each. If £58000 were devoted to rehabilitating that group for each of the nine months they are banged up, it seems likely that it would not be necessary to spend the same £58000 per month entertaining them at her majesty’s pleasure next time around (because there wouldn’t be a next time around; or one after that, or one after that…). It also seems likely that the cost of rehabilitation would be nothing like £58000 per month.
It strikes me that this is a “no brainer”. The reasons for it not happening are likely to be:
> it hasn’t occurred to the home office
> it suits the home office to have young criminals in jail rather than young ex-criminals in their community (however well they have “reformed”).
A more practical reason is that I doubt there are enough workers to work with the offenders.
A re-offence is defined as any offence committed in a one year follow-up period from either release from prison or the making of a non-custodial sentence plus a further six month waiting period to allow the offence to be proven in court and officially recorded. [*9]
*1 Council of Europe Annual Penal Statistics
*2 England and Wales have highest imprisonment rate in western Europe (Guardian, 14 march 2017)
*3 Story of the Prison Population: 1993 – 2016 England and Wales (Ministry of Justice, july 2016), p3
*4 various Wikipedia pages
*5 Story of the Prison Population: 1993 – 2016 England and Wales , p7
*6 Why has our prison population doubled since 1993? (Russell Webster’s website—a resource centre “keeping you up to date with drugs and crime”—12 august 2016)
*7 ‘Average time spent in prison’ figures are not available prior to 1999
*8 Story of the Prison Population: 1993 – 2016 England and Wales , p5
*9 Probation reoffending rate down again (Russell Webster’s website, 3 february 2017)
*10 £140,000: the annual cost of jailing a young criminal (Guardian, 1 march 2010)
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