What is the point of prison?

The aim of the essay is to provide some answers to what is the point of prison? Discuss the importance of rehabilitation and reforming and the effects it has on prisoners and crime rate. Re-examine government's policy on getting tough methods, whether tougher sentencing will help reduce crime and the outcome of getting tough methods on prison population. Look into Home Secretary's promotion on 'prison works' was just a political move or if prison actually works. Compare the statistics from Denmark prison system which has the lowest prison and crime rate in Europe.

Are community sentences a better deterrent? The general aim of prison is to take individual's liberty and freedom for the crimes that have been committed and to reduce the risk of prisoners re-offending and rehabilitation. Make community safer by locking those guilty of breaking the law. Imprisonment however has become more of a place of confinement which causes physical discomfort, indignity, psychological pain, general unhappiness as well as social disadvantages resulting in exclusion from society. Increasing crime rate led to, getting tough on crime means getting tough on offenders (Tony Blair 1993).

As a result of getting tough methods prison population of England and Wales has reached a record of 79,843, theoretically leaving space available for only 125 more prisoners; in 1991 prison population was 42,000(Internet 1). Getting tough method is not only to blame in increase of prison population but custodial sentence is the most serious punishment British courts can impose ever since the elimination of death penalty in 1965. But increasing prison population leads to asking, 'are prisons like a series of wastepaper baskets into which you can simply toss somebody and not hear from them again' (Lord Woolf 2006) or to help them reform.

Since 1999 re-offending by prisoners has increased from 58 to 67 percent. That is the largest increase since records began (David Davis 2006). The reality of current prison state is simply "an expensive way of making bad people worse" (Home Office 1990) because considering that almost 70 percent of ex offenders re-offend within two years of being released shows that ideally prisons should be working on rehabilitation, on reforming the offenders and only keeping the offenders in prison that pose a considerable threat to society.

Rehabilitation in its context is also a theory which relies entirely on punishment; it then intends to grow and develop into more improved behaviour from offender resulting in less probability of recidivating. Prisons are required to facilitate offenders through rehabilitation process by stipulation of accredited offending behaviour programme which is evidence based practice. But the service is not offered to prisoners serving short term sentences, consequentially higher re-conviction rate.

'Prison works' was a notion from Home Secretary (M Howard 1993) justified by argument that 'more certain detection and stiffer sentences were essential to deter offenders, because offenders are keen to avoid long sentences but will put up with short sentences as an occupational hazard' which at the time was in keeping with previous decades government policy on the other hand contradicting with same governments judgment that prison was 'an expensive way of making bad people worse'.

'Prison works' promotion also suggested that it is supposed to work as a deterrent. Ideally deterrence should reduce crime due to fear of punishment but as logical as it may seem, in reality this is not that case. Research shows that deterrence on individual basis and prison fails because once the offender is labelled as criminal; the resettlement back into society is made difficult due to criminal record also resulting in difficulties with living a law abiding life (Cavadino & Dignan 1997).

This can be used as an evidence to why re-offending remains all time high as well as constant rise of prison population suggesting that prison in actual fact is 'an expensive way of making bad people worse'. It has been concluded by research from the Social Exclusion Unit that re-offending by ex-prisoners costs society at least i?? 11 billion each year. (Solomon, E, 2003). This research is not indicating that re-offending is a result of custodial punishment but its signifying the inappropriate use of imprisonment for some offences.