Denmark has one of the lowest prison population and crime rate in Europe; this is because fewer people are jailed, shorter sentences, women guards, more family visits, more education and anger management courses. Only 15% of sentences are one year or more, more than half the sentences are three months or less. 139 people per 100,000 are imprisoned by British courts while only 60 are imprisoned by Denmark.
Lighter sentences and more courses to help reform also resulted in only 30 percent re-conviction rate in Denmark compared to gigantic 70 percent for Britain (Dan Damon 2006). America has one of the highest numbers of prisoners in the world as well as capital punishment for those convicted of serious offences but do such harsh punitive measures have any effect towards re-offending rate and prison population? People still continue to offend and number of prisoners continues to rise as a result of tougher sentences.
We can use America as prime example of how getting tough methods persistently fail and methods used by Danish authorities can be of assistance but this does not transform home secretary's plan which suggests judges could be given new powers to add more years on statuary sentences while probation officers may also be allowed to dish out punishment. (Metro News) Softer laws enforced by Danish authorities indicate the significant importance of using custodial sentences wisely and diverting less serious crimes towards community service. Are community sentence a better deterrent?
Community service is more effective then prison as it allows offenders to repay their debt to society instead of warehousing them. If a crime is of serious matter and poses a considerable threat to society, no option other then prison is available. However for less serious crimes, community service could work as a better deterrent because prison can break up families, impose resettlement and leave an offender with a criminal record. "Offenders are less likely to re-offend if they are punished in the community instead of being sent to prison" (John Denham 2006) But community sentences are not seen by public as fair justice.
If a person walks away with a community sentence speculations are made no justice is being done. Ensuring as well as allowing public to see the service being carried out could put more confidence in justice from public's point of view. In the state of California more money is spent on prisoners as compare to the education system (Internet 2). If money that is spent to keep prisoners locked is spent towards expansion of the rehabilitation process and most importantly towards development of living standards, we could see a shift in crime rate as well as reduced re-offending.
Britain is closely following America as an average prisoner could cost up to i?? 37,000 per year when compared to only i?? 21,000 per year earned by an average British citizen (The Times 2004). There are some theories that prison in actual fact is cheaper option. A study from Professor John DiIulio concluded that considering costs such as police, stolen property, and victim support etc, it costs more to keep offender at large then the cost of imprisonment.
Prison in actual fact is a society within a society with different aims and values compared to broader law abiding society. Criminals are not born; criminals are made, carved and moulded by society and culture Prison can work efficiently but requires more focused and insightful examination into rehabilitation process. We should be concentrating on reforming prisoners, working closely with offenders, helping them in leading more honest and fulfilling lives free of crime.
In some cases imprisonment of various individuals is necessary in the interest of community safety but prisons if properly organised can possibly make a positive contribution towards society and that constructive rehabilitation work can be influenced and developed within the offenders. Inappropriate use of custody makes it almost impossible for rehabilitation to work. Imprisonment only reduces crime, its function should also focus on reforming offenders instead the current prison state and constant increase in prison population falls short of that function.
Internet 1 http://www.prisonreformtrust.org.uk/section.asp?id=17
Internet 2 http://www.rin.lsc.gov/Stplns/California%20Self-Evaluation%20Report.html
Tony Blair (1993) http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?view=BLOGDETAIL&grid=P30&blog=yourview&xml=/news/2006/07/02/ublview02.xml
Lord Woolf (2006) http://www.guardian.co.uk/print/0,,4126363-103690,00.html
David Davis (2006) http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200506/cmhansrd/cm061023/debtext/61023-0002.htm
Dan Damon (2006) http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/3036450.stm
M Howard (1993) The Howard Journal Vol 43 No 4.
Solomon, E. (2003) Briefing from the Prison Reform Trust. Prison reform Trust, London. Retrieved 07-12-06.
John Denham (2006)
The times (2004) http://www.civitas.org.uk/pubs/prisonValue.php