How to solve the problem of prison over-crowding?

There is a major problem with prison over-crowding across the UK. This is a problem that is not just confined to one area of the UK and it is alarming the numbers of people who are in prison.

There are discussions about how to solve the problem with proposals to build more prisons and introduce further early release schemes. People are not happy about the prospect of people being released from prison early. There was also controversy when Kenny McAskill MSP (Scotland’s Justice Secretary) announced a review of sentencing guidelines with a view to introducing more community based sentences. Personally, I do not see why this is so controversial. There are people wasting away pointlessly in prison and the over-crowding is leading to problems with infringements on Human Rights and the inability to properly administer the programmes there to rehabilitate these offenders.

The answer, I think, lies in a radical review of Scotland’s sentencing policies. Prison should be an absolute last resort!

Nobody should be sent to prison unless their crime is so heinous that not to would undermine the confidence in the Justice system (i.e. Murder, Rape and so on) OR they pose a high risk of re-offending (and have offended several times in the past).

It is deplorable that we send people to prison for offences such as non-payment of council tax. There are many offences, such as the one I just mentioned, that carry custodial sentences that a community based sentence would be more appropriate.

Community based sentences do have their place in society. They can sometimes be more effective than sending a person to prison, especially when such a sentence is carried out in the very community directly affected by the offenders actions.

Prison as a method of rehabilitation does not currently work, not because the idea is fundamentally flawed (as some suggest), but more because the numbers being sent to prison mean the Prison service is being crippled. Simply building more prisons is not the answer as it only allows the problem to grow further (i.e. if there are more prison places then the judiciary might be more minded to send someone to prison who does not need to go).

Of course, I support sending people to prison who have committed serious crimes (as I mentioned earlier). Those who prey on the vulnerable, kill, rape or are involved in other serious offences deserve nothing less than the ultimate penalty that our system allows for: the removal of one’s liberty.

If prisons are less full proper education can take place. If we can help those without qualifications (who are all to often the ones who end up in prison) to obtain some this may help them on the outside to get a job and move away from a life of crime. It is obvious from social observation to see that those who live in deprivation are often those responsible for crime. Social Justice dictates that we help them. Helping people out of a life of crime can only benefit our society economically!

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