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Home » crime and punishment » Why should we concentrate on making the prison system cheaper not smaller, Mr Grayling?

Why should we concentrate on making the prison system cheaper not smaller, Mr Grayling?

A theme that is close to my heart is the reduction of the prison population, unfortunately the Government has other ideas. Chris Grayling MP  in his speech to the Centre for Social Justice on 20th November stated the five priorities that he has given to the Ministry of Justice for the remainder of this Parliament, priority three included

“We have to focus on making the prison system cheaper not smaller”.

In addition Jeremy Wright MP at the AGM for the Howard League for Penal Reform on Wednesday 21st November 2012 said that the Government has no plans to reduce the prison population and it is the sentencers not the Government who are responsible for the prison population as it stands today.

Maybe we should look at simplifying the Criminal Justice System by reviewing historical scholars. In On Crimes and Punishment and Other Writings (1764), Cesare Beccaria critically challenges the current thinking of the 18th Century by putting forward his theory of Criminal Justice from an enlightened perspective as he himself searched for truth (Bellamy, 1995). He concluded that:

“In order that punishment should not be an act of violence perpetrated by one or many upon a private citizen, it is essential that it should be public, speedy, necessary, the minimum possible in the given circumstances, proportionate to the crime, and determined by the law”

What is clear is that the objectives of sentencing have changed over time, with different priorities being given by different policy makers. The criminal justice system has been reduced to a managerial system rather than improving on a punitive system. In other words, policy makers are more interested in assuring that the system works than assuring that the punishment works, which totally misses the point of crime and punishment as Beccaria saw it.

Bellamy, R. (ed.) (1995) Beccaria: On Crimes and Punishments and Other Writings. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Related Links
‘Prisons: cheaper not smaller’ by Richard Garside. UK Justice Policy Review. 20 Nov 2012. click here
‘An open letter to Chris Grayling from an ‘old lag’ ‘Downsizing Criminal Justice. 28 Nov 2012. click here

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