The Truth About Crime

There is an interesting series underway on BBC 1 just now.  The first two episodes have already been aired, with the third due to be aired on Tuesday 4 August 2009 at 9pm.  The series is called “The Truth About Crime”.

Essentially, the series is one massive crime survey, which surpasses any other survey conducted and aims to discover, as the title says, the truth about crime in Britain today.

So far, the series has looked at violent crime (week 1), in which they confirmed the belief that many have in society today, that police and other official sources of statistics on violent crime are wholly inadequate and show only the very tip of the iceberg.  In the second week the series looked at theft and burglary of all kind (including fraud) and tried to uncover the picture of theft and burglary in Britain today.  It showed that, again, the statistics relied upon by police and politicians are wholly inadequate and show only the tip of the iceberg.  The very real fact is that so any of these crimes fail to make it onto the official statistics for whatever reason (whether that be how they get classified or people simply not reporting them to the police).

Part of the problem in understanding statistics has been revealed many times in books written by insiders such as Wasting Police Time and Perverting The Course of Justice and that is the games which police play when it comes to classifying what is a crime and what is not a crime, and whether it is crime A or crime B.  So, a crime of fraud (assuming it is classed as a crime and then makes its way onto the statistics) may not necessarily show up as a fraud, but as some other form of crime.  This skews statistics and is actually quite easy to do given the sheer volume of criminal offences we have (many of which are pointless because they are already covered by another offence, but just given a new name by New Labour to try and fool the public into thinking they are doing something about crime).

Something struck me in this programme, or rather struck me again as it something I’ve said before, and it is to do with our prison system.  There are people going into prison because they like it and it is easier than life outside of prison, and here I am talking about homeless people and people living far below the poverty line.  Many people use this as a criticism of the prison service and a way to show that prisons are too soft and that it doesn’t work, but this begs the question of whether they are saying these things to cover their own shame and to avoid taking responsibility for a huge problem in society.  Is it not a poor indictment on society that people are in such a position that prison is easier then everyday life?  From my own experiences of speaking to those inside, having visited prisons as part of research with family members who have worked in the prison service and speaking to these family members I have formed my own opinion on prison.  Ordinary, middle class people with a reasonable comfortable life would not cope in prison and would thoroughly detest it.  Why? Because prison is hard, it’s not nice.  It has a monotonous routine about it, where every action of prisoners is monitored and controlled by the prison staff:  when they eat, what they eat, when they exercise, what exercise they do, when they have recreational time, what they are allowed to do, how long that time lasts, who they are allowed to speak to and have visits from, when they can have these visits etc.

People have been suckered into thinking prison is easy by headline grabbing tabloids (such as the Daily Mail).  To me, the fact that people are finding prison easy (and when one looks at those who find prison easy) I see this as a failure on the part of society.  That society is failing the worst off.  If anyone finds prison easier than real life it suggests that their life outside of prison is unimaginably hard to those of us living in middle class suburbs, with decent regular wages, a reasonable standard of education and a comfortable lifestyle which naturally accompanies these things.

Returning to my family who have worked in the prison service (mainly in associated services rather than actually working for the prison service as prison officers) they have told me that those who struggle most with prison are the average, ordinary middle class people who get caught up in crime for whatever reason and find themselves in a system which is harder and far away from the life they are used to.

Anyway, that was a rather long tangent.  This series on the BBC is thoroughly interesting and I will be continuing to watch it with great interest.  This is the good work that I’d love to see more of from the BBC, which means that I do not despise paying my TV licence.  I’d recommend anyone who hasn’t been watching to tune in and try and catch missed episodes on BBC iPlayer.

EDIT:  The first two episodes will remain on BBC iPlayer until one week following the third and final episode in the series is aired on Tuesday 4 August 2009.