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Life Imprisonment...or not?

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cnb
1295086.  Wed Sep 12, 2018 5:18 am Reply with quote

barbados wrote:
They had Rory Stewart and Richard Burgon on the radio this morning talking about women in prison (some sort of reform proposal) and the figure quoted for keeping someone inside who is a pest rather than a danger (so kept in a low security establishment) was 47000 per year


The costs are significantly higher for women - from the same document I used before a women's open prison costs 25,000 to 45,000. They are 2015-16 figures, so the 47,000 is probably the current version of that.

It's a statistical report, so it doesn't go into why the costs are so high, but I guess it's mainly an economy of scale issue. There were less than 200 women in such prisons, whereas there were nearly 5000 men. Women's places are more costly than men's in higher security prisons too, but the difference is much smaller.

 
dr.bob
1295097.  Wed Sep 12, 2018 5:59 am Reply with quote

cnb wrote:
Would it be a large sum of money?


Good point.

cnb wrote:
Open prisons (the type where you'd expect decrepit people deemed no threat to be held) are the cheapest type of prison to run, at somewhere between 16,000 and 25,000 per place depending what you include in the calculation


According to this MoJ publication, the cost is either 17,651 or 27,972 per prisoner, depending if you're considering the "Direct Resource Expenditure" or the "Overall Resource Expenditure" (annoyingly it doesn't explain what these terms mean)

cnb wrote:
If you release an old, decrepit prisoner, you have to start paying his pension and provide him with somewhere to live. In central London state pension, pension credit and housing benefit alone would be more than the 16,000 low-end cost of a prison place.


Now now, play fair. You're comparing the most expensive place to live in the country with the lowest possible price of a prison place. Talk about stacking the deck in your favour.

According to this website about elderly care, a place in sheltered housing costs "anywhere from 300 to 700 per month, depending on the area you live in." That's a maximum of 8,400 per month. Add on the current maximum state pension of 125.95 per week, and you're still only talking a total of around 15,000. That's less than the 16,000 low-end cost of a prison place, and way less than the 27,972 upper cost of an open prison place considering "Overall Resource Expenditure".

 
cnb
1295105.  Wed Sep 12, 2018 7:16 am Reply with quote

dr.bob wrote:

According to this MoJ publication, the cost is either 17,651 or 27,972 per prisoner, depending if you're considering the "Direct Resource Expenditure" or the "Overall Resource Expenditure" (annoyingly it doesn't explain what these terms mean)


That's the same document I was using, I just used the 'cost per place' figures rather than 'cost per prisoner'. I think the 'direct resource expenditure' is the cost incurred by the specific prisons, while 'overall resource expenditure' takes the overhead costs of running the prison service and somehow divides them up between prisons.

My assumption was that the overheads stay more-or-less the same if there is a small change in the prison population. As there are few lifers, the overall population wouldn't change much whether they were kept in our let out, so the 'direct resource expenditure' is probably a closer match to any potential saving on release than the 'overall resource expenditure'. I accept that's based largely on assumptions about what the terms mean.

dr.bob wrote:

Now now, play fair. You're comparing the most expensive place to live in the country with the lowest possible price of a prison place. Talk about stacking the deck in your favour.


I wasn't trying to suggest that it would always be cheaper to keep people inside, just that the cost difference was potentially quite small.

dr.bob wrote:

Add on the current maximum state pension of 125.95 per week,


Someone with no other income from work, savings, private pension etc (which is likely the case for someone who has been in prison a long time) is eligible for Pension Credit. Effectively they get a state pension of 163 per week. That would add another couple of thousand and bring your total to slightly more than the one I calculated based on housing benefit rather than sheltered housing.

 
Jenny
1295148.  Wed Sep 12, 2018 2:02 pm Reply with quote

Can we all please stop assuming that prisons are quite pleasant places to be? You are sent to prison *as* punishment, not *for* punishment. The punishment consists of depriving you of your liberty and your freedom of choice in nearly every aspect of living - where you sleep, what you eat, how you spend your time and so on. In modern prisons you might have televisions and radios but (for example) you aren't allowed to have more than a certain number of books or documents in your room. Your possessions are subject to random searches in which everything is turned over. You have no privacy at all. You are in the company of a lot of villains who are mostly not pleasant people and there is no way of avoiding them.

When we're discussing people who are felt to have received whatever punishment society deemed appropriate and who no longer constitute a risk to the public, let's not make it all about costs, eh?

 
bobwilson
1295176.  Wed Sep 12, 2018 7:22 pm Reply with quote

I'd applaud Jenny's post - but I'd go further.

What purpose are we trying to serve? I don't mean just prison - but the entire gamut of the results of criminal proceedings? What exactly are we trying to achieve. It's only when we determine what we're trying to achieve that we can start thinking about possible ways of achieving that end.

And once we've settled on some possible outcomes of criminal trials - we can evaluate how effective each is in achieving the desired results.

 
barbados
1295179.  Thu Sep 13, 2018 12:49 am Reply with quote

Jenny wrote:
You are in the company of a lot of villains who are mostly not pleasant people and there is no way of avoiding them.


Surely if you have received a custodial sentence you are one of those villians who isn't a pleasant person?

I remember what the radio thing was about now - phones in cells. They are piloting putting phones in cells as they think it aids with rehabilitation. Which of course is the reason convicted criminals are punished by sending them to prison.

 
dr.bob
1295215.  Thu Sep 13, 2018 7:54 am Reply with quote

cnb wrote:
I wasn't trying to suggest that it would always be cheaper to keep people inside, just that the cost difference was potentially quite small.


Fair enough.

cnb wrote:
Someone with no other income from work, savings, private pension etc (which is likely the case for someone who has been in prison a long time) is eligible for Pension Credit. Effectively they get a state pension of 163 per week. That would add another couple of thousand and bring your total to slightly more than the one I calculated based on housing benefit rather than sheltered housing.


Good point. That does efficiently answer my original question, so thanks for that.

That brings us on to the point that bob has touched on, which concerns rehabilitation. While I completely understand that the victims of crime tend to focus primarily on the punishment aspect of the criminal justice system, our system is based on the idea that criminals should be rehabilitated. Far better to have a useful human being contributing to society than paying through the nose to lock someone up.

Clearly a balance needs to be struck here. There should definitely be some element of punishment so, even if someone is completely rehabilitated a week after they're convicted for a serious crime, it would not be appropriate to immediately set them free. But the general principle of rehabilitation would imply that life will almost never mean life.

 
Jenny
1295253.  Thu Sep 13, 2018 3:15 pm Reply with quote

barbados wrote:
Jenny wrote:
You are in the company of a lot of villains who are mostly not pleasant people and there is no way of avoiding them.


Surely if you have received a custodial sentence you are one of those villians who isn't a pleasant person?


Not necessarily at all. My experience of conducting workshops in prison over about an eight year period taught me that a lot of people are in prison because they are incompetent rather than dangerous, or they are people who have fucked up their lives by drug addiction. Many are by no means villainous, just people who have made a (sometimes very serious) mistake. We shouldn't conflate them with the paedophiles and rapists and murderers. And in fact not all the murderers were villains. One woman I met in prison was there because she shot the guy who had been beating her up on a regular basis and slammed her head in a car door the day she came out of hospital after having a baby. Sadly she was put away before there was a dawning of realization that maybe there was a connection between being abused and reacting violently. She was imprisoned when she was 21 and will be out sometime in her sixties.

barbados wrote:
I remember what the radio thing was about now - phones in cells. They are piloting putting phones in cells as they think it aids with rehabilitation. Which of course is the reason convicted criminals are punished by sending them to prison.


This is not cellphones or smartphones we are discussing, but landlines with limited numbers that can be called. Apparently it has now occurred to people that family ties are important and that it's very hard to have regular contact out on a prison landing with everybody else able to hear your conversation. However, don't think this is too generous - the system still charges you about 6 for 20 minutes, and you have to fund this while being paid pennies per hour for prison work.

http://www.firsttimeinprison.co.uk/contacting-the-outside-world/

 
barbados
1295256.  Thu Sep 13, 2018 3:41 pm Reply with quote

What would you prefer Jenny? To me it is a sterling idea. As has been pointed out many times, prison is the punishment - the retribution should be the rehabilitation, and if this makes it easier then I don't see a problem with it. I don't think this should be free, and the key to it is the phone is a benefit for the prisoner, and can be withdrawn should the need arise. Its also right that the numbers should be limited.

Regardless of the "mistake" if it is serious enough for them to end up in custody, then they are criminals - or villians.

 
cnb
1295259.  Thu Sep 13, 2018 3:58 pm Reply with quote

Jenny wrote:
Many are by no means villainous, just people who have made a (sometimes very serious) mistake. We shouldn't conflate them with the paedophiles and rapists and murderers.


The English prison system is designed so that those two groups should be kept in separate prisons, at least until the latter are well into their rehabilitation process. Murderers and rapists are always kept in the most secure Category A prisons for at least the first two years and normally longer. Most of the people who are locked up for 'mistakes' would be in a Category C prison, with a few violent offenders in the more secure and restrictive Category B.

It's not quite the same for women, as so few are convicted of the most violent offences. High risk female prisoners are kept in segregated wings of regular prisons, but the principle of separation remains.

 
'yorz
1295274.  Thu Sep 13, 2018 5:39 pm Reply with quote

Not sure if you should call people who for instance are remanded in custody and cannot afford bail, so they have to stay in jail often for many months until the next hearing, criminals or villains. They haven't been found guilty yet.

 
Jenny
1295324.  Fri Sep 14, 2018 9:49 am Reply with quote

Cnb - my experience is of American prisons. In the one I worked in, the sex offenders were in a separate unit, and there was a maximum security prison for the worst offenders which was separate, but otherwise people were mixed together. The women's unit was, as you suggest, much smaller, and the population of offenders was mixed in there.

Criminal =/= villain.

And 'yorz has an excellent point about people remanded because they can't pay bail - this is a very sore subject on this side of the Atlantic. According to this article - though I don't know how the figure was arrived at - seventy percent of the people currently locked up in the USA are there because they can't afford bail, although they have not been convicted of a crime.

 
Zziggy
1295335.  Fri Sep 14, 2018 10:50 am Reply with quote

Jenny wrote:
Can we all please stop assuming that prisons are quite pleasant places to be? You are sent to prison *as* punishment, not *for* punishment. The punishment consists of depriving you of your liberty and your freedom of choice in nearly every aspect of living - where you sleep, what you eat, how you spend your time and so on. In modern prisons you might have televisions and radios but (for example) you aren't allowed to have more than a certain number of books or documents in your room. Your possessions are subject to random searches in which everything is turned over. You have no privacy at all. You are in the company of a lot of villains who are mostly not pleasant people and there is no way of avoiding them.

I mean, personally I'd want to change that. I don't think prisons should be a punishment, I think they should be rehabilitation. The treatment you describe doesn't sound very rehabilitative to me - it sounds torturous.

Jenny wrote:
When we're discussing people who are felt to have received whatever punishment society deemed appropriate and who no longer constitute a risk to the public, let's not make it all about costs, eh?

 
crissdee
1295342.  Fri Sep 14, 2018 12:07 pm Reply with quote

Zziggy wrote:
I don't think prisons should be a punishment, I think they should be rehabilitation.


There has to be an element of punishment there, either through harsh and uncomfortable treatment, or just the removal of liberty, or the legal system becomes a joke. We would effectively be saying;

"Don't do that! Or..................we'll help you not to want to do it again!"

That is not the legal system I want in this country.

 
AlmondFacialBar
1295344.  Fri Sep 14, 2018 12:14 pm Reply with quote

Actually prisoners who have been through a rehabilitative system where the only punishment aspect is the loss of liberty have much lower rates of reoffending and are more likely to leave prison as productive citizens. Surely that is exactly what you want from a legal system?

:-)

AlmondFacialBar

 

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