The prison service today in this country is not about rehabilitation but about making offenders feels humiliated, unworthy and good for nothing. People talk about the easy life for prisoners but you only have to step inside a prison today to know that even as visitors there is a sense of unworthiness to the inmates that has everything to do with the staff that are supposed to be looking after them and their well being – REHABILITATING THEM – but this is not happening. Most prisoners acknowledge their mistakes, sometimes made in the prime of their youth when the only colour they saw was red. It is amazing to see that these people have been committed to a life in prison because there is not the slightest inclination on the prison service to do more to help these people than to demean and belittle them. THIS IS A FACT. Just check out the supposedly lenient category D prisons which are intent on ensuring only that prisoners make mistakes so that they can be shoved back to Cat C. Their entire attitude is one of looking down on the inmates.
This problem begins in the courts, which should show more leniency towards those offenders who have been recommended by the parole board as low risk. In fact these prisoners should not even be in prison in the first place. Everyone is talking about the deficit and making cuts, surely it is more sensible to keep the prison population low rather than making the tax payer pay to keep offenders inside – which costs far more to the economy than perhaps making them work in the community to pay back their debt. What is most shocking is that when the courts order a pre-sentence report they are asking for an assessment of the individual and his/her circumstances. The parole officers job is to provide this and much more – including his recommendation for sentence, i.e how the individual should be sentenced. What is the point of having this report commissioned – again at a cost to the tax payer – if it is only going to occupy the judge's reading time and nothing else. For most judges in the crown court don't even bother to hide the fact that they are going to sentence the individual to a term in prison – so why go to the expense of commisioning a report? It defies logic and makes the whole exercise not worth the paper it's been written on. If the judge orders a pre-sentence report it should accept it's recommendations too.
There has been many a pre-sentence report that has recommended SSO's (suspended sentence orders) because they felt that the individual was low risk enough to warrant it but a crabby old crown court judge had to defy it because he wanted to make an example of the person. That is not law at it's best, that is grudge law.
Why does this idea matter?
If you are serious about addressing the massive problem of overcrowding and making cuts to move the economy, then this idea will help cut the deficit; ensure a fairer deal for prisoners, communities and the tax payer, whilst simultaneously cutting the prison population. It's a win win situation, if only people can show more understanding. Not everyone in prison today is a criminal, just because they have been convicted of a crime does not mean the system got it right (you only have to look at all the successful appeals). But again those who do admit to their crimes, and who prove low risk, would be better served by putting them to work in communities than clogging up an already overcrowded prison system.
The government should ignore public protestations because sometimes that's all they are and do the decent thing by restoring some rights to those convicted of crimes, especially those who are low risk. Putting first time low risk offenders in a prison environment, especially if they are immature is surely detrimental to everyone – not to mention adding to the individuals woes by mixing with other, perhaps hardened criminals. What kind of message do you think the current penal system is giving. Overcrowding is at it's peak, criminal convictions at record levels, and yet the crime is not falling. We need a better way to address the current problem. This is it.