Introduction.In light of the rising crime rate in the United Kingdom, this brief article will assess the criminal justice system within the United Kingdom, and explore whether the actual facilities in place are helping to limit the numbers of convicted criminals that re-offend, or whether these systems that are in place are engineered towards re-offending. For most offenders there first port of call will be incarceration. It will, therefore, be important to start with the effectiveness of prisons.
Once a person is released from prison, they will then fall under the auspices of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act, and possibly be ordered to undertake a period of probation. If re-offending is to be curtailed, then both of these structures need to be successful, thus, there efficacy will be assessed next. The final part will investigate who benefits from a system engineered towards re-offending.
The article will conclude that the Criminal Justice System is engineered towards re-offending, and until this problem is attended to, the structures in place that currently are concentrated on tackling re-offending, will continue to be superfluous.Prison.To incarcerate the perpetrators of crimes within a prison should be the last resort of any civilised society. In England and Wales, the prison population is over 70,000. If this most extreme of punishments is to be effective, it must not only be there as a form of retribution. Prisons are extremely expensive and should have as the main goal the reduction in a prisoner's propensity towards re-offending.
So this poses the question, what is the best way in which the prison service could best tackle re-offending? A publication in the Guardian (Tuesday July 23 2002) suggested that keeping close family links between convicted criminals and their families has been proven to reduce the chances of that person re-offending. This has resulted in various visitors centres treating visitors not as prisoners, but as members of the public. The question still remains, however, as to why this policy is not employed throughout all jails were a direct threat is not present? If the keeping of family ties can help prevent re-offending, then why is not a more suitable venue offered for people to meet their families' children etc?.
? They have not committed a crime, yet they are often treated with extraordinary suspicion. The visit can be extremely harrowing for the children of convicted criminals, and can lead to alienation between the convicted criminal and his family.Rehabilitation of Offenders Act.The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 is one of the cornerstones of the Criminal Justice System.
It is a statute that allows a convicted criminal to wipe the slate clean after a certain period of time for employment purposes. The periods involved are greater in length for more serious crimes. This system provides that an individual convicted of a crime must declare this conviction to any prospective employer.
There are a lot of organisations that feel that this Act is counterproductive when it is considered in terms of re-offending. The Prison Reform Trust, an organisation aimed at creating a just, humane and effective penal system, point out some principle weakness in the Act. They state that the Act excludes people who have served over two and a half years in jail.
Thus, any person who has served a prison sentence for this length of time will always have to declare this to an employer. The Prison Reform Trust further point out that a person is sentenced to a prison sentence, and then must bare the imposition of a new sentence, that can, in various cases, last for up to ten years. Why is the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act orchestrated in such a way as to prohibit people finding employment once they leave jail?.Probation.
The probation service states on its website that 'Crime is a complex issue and it demands comprehensive and complex solutions. The National Probation Service (NPS) is a major component in reducing crime.' If we consider the full meaning of this statement, then by implication, the probation service is a tool to combat re-offending. How do they do this? They allege this is done by intervening early to take young people away from crime and by introducing offender programmes that have a track record in reducing re-offending.
According to CIVITAS, these two proclamations have been shown to be highly unlikely. The Intensive Supervision and Surveillance Program that was initiated for young offenders, (ISSP) has cost at least £45m since 2001. However, it has been admitted that 84% of participants were reconvicted within 12 months of the start of the program. Over half of offenders (53%) did not even complete the six-month program. In other words, ISSP was more costly than other community sentences and was less effective.
The Offending Behavior Program, costing at least £2,000 each, has been found not to reduce crime. Recent Home Office studies found that reconviction rates did not fall (pp.59-64 Home Office Research Study No. 206; Home Office Research Findings No. 161.
) These statements do not paint an encouraging picture and certainly do nothing to promote the ideal that society is either tackling, or indeed taking the issue of re-offending seriously.Who Benefits from Re-offending.Whilst the measures that have been examined above all have systemic failings, the question needs to be asked as to who is benefiting form the current high recidivist rate? Society as a whole is certainly not a beneficiary. There have been different suggestions regarding why the recidivist rate is so high, with some suggesting that it is an intentional mechanism to keep people fearful. Fearful people will always relinquish civil liberties in order to curtail crime levels.There is also a more cynical view advocated by some.
The police service depends upon funding form the treasury. The treasury relies on funding from the taxpayer. If one can forget the political issues and focus on the economic matter, then people will nor feel too aggrieved to be highly taxed in order to fund a police service, which, in effect, because of concerns out of there control, remains largely unproductive. There are some who believe that the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act provides inexpensive employment.
The jobs that most people in our society would not even contemplate doing, the most mundane and least rewarding economically of all employment, will often be filled by convicted criminals.Conclusion.The question that was posed at the beginning of this paper concerned whether the Criminal Justice System, and whether it was engineered towards re-offending. As we have seen with incarceration in prisons, this will often lead to re-offending. The policy of treating the whole family as convicted criminals, not just the offenders, will lead to the offenders becoming alienated from their families. This will then induce a feeling of hopelessness which often leads to the offender re-offending.
Even if a convicted criminal survives prison with his family unit intact, he must then contend with the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act which is outdated and will more often than not force a convicted individual back into crime, purely because they cannot find employment. No employment leads to low self-esteem, which can often lead back to a life of crime.Finally, probation does not work as most people have to attend two days a week. This also negates the possibility of gaining employment and can often lead to severe financial difficulties, which again can lead people to re-offend.
The task of reintegrating back into society is fraught with many obstacles, obstacles that cost the taxpayer excessive amounts of money. Society can ill afford to punish convicted criminals for their entire lives. If anyone does not agree that the system is engineered towards re-offending, they cannot deny that the system in place is wholly ineffective and needs a complete rethink..Thomas Gallagher
LLb John Moores University
LLM Liverpool University.If you wish to read more about this subject then visit http://www.
criminal-information-agency.com/probation/, http://www.criminal-information-agency.com/index.htm, and http://www.criminal-information-agency.
By: Thomas Gallagher