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Tackling prison overcrowding

Tackling prison overcrowding: Build more prisons? Sentence fewer offenders?

Mike Hough
Rob Allen
Enver Solomon
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  • Book Info
    Tackling prison overcrowding
    Book Description:

    Tackling prison overcrowding is a response to controversial proposals for prisons and sentencing set out in by Lord Patrick Carter's Review of Prisons, published in 2007. The Carter review proposed the construction of vast 'Titan' prisons to deal with the immediate problem of prison overcrowding, the establishment of a Sentencing Commission as a mechanism for keeping judicial demand for prison places in line with supply, along with further use of the private sector, including private sector management methods. Tackling prison overcrowding comprises nine chapters by leading academic experts, who expose these proposals to critical scrutiny. They take the Carter Report to task for construing the problems too narrowly, in terms of efficiency and economy, and for failing to understand the wider issues of justice that need addressing. They argue that the crisis of prison overcrowding is first and foremost a political problem - arising from penal populism - for which political solutions need to be found. This accessible report will be of interest to policy makers, probation practitioners, academics and other commentators on criminal policy.

    eISBN: 978-1-84742-118-0
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. List of figures and tables
    (pp. iv-iv)
  2. Foreword
    (pp. vi-vi)
    Phil Wheatley

    I write this foreword, not to endorse the views expressed in this publication, but to welcome an informed and critical debate of such an important issue.

    In a mature democracy, what degree of risk the public will accept of further crime from known offenders and what sort of punishment is appropriate for offenders are properly for public discussion and are intensely political issues which our elected politicians have to grapple with and resolve. That debate is enhanced by good information, thoughtful analysis of it and expert opinion.

    This series of papers provides a major contribution, mainly to that side of...

  3. 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-8)
    Mike Hough and Enver Solomon

    This book comprises the proceedings of a symposium held in May 2008 that examined government policy on prisons and sentencing. The event was organised by the three research centres in the School of Law at King’s College London: the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies, the Institute of Criminal Policy Research and the International Centre for Prison Studies. It was funded by the Hadley Trust.

    The symposium was organised to examine the latest proposals for prisons and sentencing set out in the government’s review of prisons by Lord Carter published in December 2007 (Carter, 2007). The report put forward radical...

  4. 2 The prisoners’ dilemma in England and Wales
    (pp. 9-24)
    Nicola Lacey

    Across the developed world today, we see striking contrasts in the level and quality of imprisonment. In 2006, imprisonment rates per 100,000 of the population ranged from about 36 in Iceland to a staggering 725 in the US. It is generally agreed that these differences cannot be explained in terms of crime rates, which – unlike levels of imprisonment – have risen and fallen over the last 50 years in broadly similar ways in most advanced democracies.² And while the humanity of prison conditions and the constructiveness of prison regimes cannot be so neatly assessed, there is plenty of evidence...

  5. 3 Building on sand: why expanding the prison estate is not the way to ‘secure the future’
    (pp. 25-42)
    Carol Hedderman

    Over the last decade the prison population has grown from 65,300 to 83,200.¹ In the next decade the demand for prison places in England and Wales will outstrip the number planned. Others have, and will, debate the important questions this raises about the role prison plays in society, including whether we should use prison at all (see Walker, 1991; Hudson, 2003). This chapter, however, adopts a purely utilitarian view point. From this perspective, there seem to be only two solutions to a position in which the demand for prison places exceeds supply: build faster or change the way custodial sentences...

  6. 4 Towards more consistent and predictable sentencing in England and Wales
    (pp. 43-62)
    Jessica Jacobson, Julian Roberts and Mike Hough

    The structure of sentencing guidelines in England and Wales is likely to undergo a significant transformation following publication of the final report of the Sentencing Commission Working Group. The Working Group has rejected the creation of a US-style sentencing commission for England and Wales (2008b),¹ having made clear in its consultation paper that it had also decided against the introduction of a US-style sentencing grid for this jurisdiction (Sentencing Commission Working Group, 2008a). Both decisions are consistent with the submissions made to the Working Group (see Sentencing Commission Working Group (2008c) for a summary). Time will tell, but it seems...

  7. 5 ‘Titan’ prisons: do size, efficiency and legitimacy matter?
    (pp. 63-80)
    Alison Liebling

    Lord Carter’s Report was commissioned to explore ways of saving money, and building new capacity. Since size is a major determinant of cost, considerable thought has been devoted to the question of what the ‘optimal’ size of a new prison might be. The report recommends the building of two to three ‘larger, state of the art’ or ‘Titan’ prisons accommodating around 2,500 prisoners each. The term is objectionable, referring to giant stature and physical strength or power (The New Shorter Oxford Dictionary, 1994) so I wonder whether we should refer to them more descriptively and neutrally, as the large, cluster...

  8. 6 Private punishment? An examination of the expansion, development and employment relations of private prisons
    (pp. 81-102)
    Sanjiv Sachdev

    The growth of private prisons is an important, controversial but relatively neglected issue in the broader debate around private sector involvement in public services. Despite the presence of private prisons in the UK since 1992, the existence of 11 private prisons with more in prospect and the centrality of labour management to the success of private prisons, there is limited consideration of its implications especially in relation to Prison Service workers. As the study of private prisons by James et al (1997, p viii) notes, employment relations matters have ‘not been given the attention ... which it undoubtedly merits’. This...

  9. 7 Reducing the use of custody as a sanction: a review of recent international experiences
    (pp. 103-122)
    Julian Roberts

    How might a legislature reduce the use of custody as a sanction? Constraining rising (or reducing stable) prison populations remains a challenge confronting most western nations. It is now more than 20 years since the United Nations Standard Rules for Non-Custodial Measures¹ (the so-called ‘Tokyo Rules’) were adopted, the principal goal of which was to reduce the traditional reliance on imprisonment as a legal punishment. Throughout the 1990s, however, prison populations rose in many common law jurisdictions, particularly England and Wales and the US. The prison population in England and Wales grew by over 60% during the decade 1995–2005...

  10. 8 Where now?
    (pp. 123-132)
    Rod Morgan

    The seminar at King’s which resulted in this volume was organised to stimulate thinking about the propositions put forward in Lord Carter’s review,Securing the future(Carter, 2007). Consideration focused on two key recommendations:

    that a more structured sentencing framework be developed by establishing a permanent sentencing commission; that this proposition early be explored by a working group to consider its advantages, disadvantages and operational feasibility; with the working group reporting to the Lord Chancellor and Lord Chief Justice by summer 2008 (Carter, 2007, p 35);

    in order that the Government be able to cope with current prisons undercapacity that...

  11. 9 Endnote: latest developments in penal policy
    (pp. 133-138)
    Rob Allen

    Following the King’s seminar, a flurry of proposals has emerged about sentencing and imprisonment, some of which have been produced during a period of heightened political and media concern about crime, in particular violent crime involving knives. The most significant of these proposals in the long term relates to the development of the sentencing commission discussed in Chapter 4. It is important too that in July the Sentencing Advisory Panel (SAP) launched a consultation into the principles which guide the courts’ decision making (SAP, 2008). Key questions include the circumstances in which custodial sentences should be imposed, what impact previous...