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Britain has one of the largest prison populations in Europe and the system is failing to cope adequately with the problem. Discuss the use of alternatives to prison sentence for convicted offenders

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Introduction

Question 3: Britain has one of the largest prison populations in Europe and the system is failing to cope adequately with the problem. Discuss the use of alternatives to prison sentence for convicted offenders. More and more people in Britain are being sentenced to jail time: this is a fact. In 2004, there are currently over eighty thousand inmates.[1] (Peter Reydt, 2004 / Scottish Executive, 2003) Crime is on the increase but our prisons are already overcrowded. Consequently, new prisons will be required to accommodate prisoners. Where will the money come from to pay for the construction of new prisons? Will they have a sufficient rehabilitation programmes in place? The prison system is obviously failing because it is not acting as a deterrent. Clearly we should now be examining why the system is failing and possible alternatives to prison. What should these alternatives be? Would they work and would they be seen as a suitable punishment? First of all, I'd like to look at why the prison service is failing. Ten years ago, Britain's prison population was actually on the decline (Casciani, 2002)[2]. This was due to the government at the time implementing more community based punishments over the use of prison sentencing. However, not all of the Home Secretaries of the time - Kenneth Baker and Kenneth Clarke - agreed with this policy and soon changed their minds and began to follow up on the 'rhetoric of being 'tough' on crime'[3](Cascianni, 2002) ...read more.

Middle

(HMP Service)[8] By having this in place in the prison system, this can only be beneficial to the offenders for it gives them a chance of getting educated and rehabilitated, thus making it easier for them to be re-integrated into society. However, even though offenders have access to these programmes and training courses, there is a downside to being incarcerated: first of all, their living conditions. The majority of jails are overcrowded so in most cases, there can be up to three people sharing a cell. (Reyd, 2004)[9] Also, there is a problem of bullying which can have serious effects on the inmates' state of mind and wellbeing, which in turn can lead to self harm. Offenders in custody for the first time can find it very difficult to cope and this could lead both to self-harm and to the extreme of attempting suicide. As a matter of fact, prison suicides have reached a record high. There were more prisoners committing suicide in August of 2004 than in any month since records began. Seventy deaths have already been reported this year. (BBC, 2004)[10] This is a horrific thought, this cannot be allowed to continue, so what alternatives can be offered to stop this happening now and in the future? ...read more.

Conclusion

Would the public feel that the offender is being sufficiently punished for the crime they have committed or would they feel that the offender had somehow have escaped punishment nor not been punished with sufficient severity? Hopefully in the future, society's views will change to look more favourably on alternatives to prison and see their benefits. Having now examined whether to use alternatives more than using prison sentencing the alternatives seem the best way forward. If one life - even that of a prisoner - can be saved, then this must surely be a very good idea? If these alternatives were in place they would help the overcrowding in jails and the building of more jails - which cost on average sixty million pounds each to build.(Rethinking Crime and Punishment, 2002)[12]. This would be less of a burden on the taxpayer and this money could go into developing these alternatives and having them implemented instead of prison. If the offender is shown to be fully rehabilitated and to want to give something back to society, this can only be beneficial: not only to the offender to but to society as a whole. "There are some duties we owe even to those who have wronged us. There is, after all, a limit to retribution and punishment." Cicero (106 BC - 43 BC)[13] Word Count: 1644 Part One - Essay Question Three - 1 - ...read more.

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