The Crime Of The Uk Prison Population Essay

The Crime Of The Uk Prison Population Essay

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In history, crimes have been dealt with by the justice system according to its severity as well as the offender: if the crime committed was not very serious and the offender was deemed “non-delinquent”, or “free of any real criminal disposition”, they would be cautioned or fined. However, were the crime a more serious one and the offender appeared to have a “criminal character”, they would receive more severe and more deterrent punishment (Garland, 2001: 42).
In more recent years, numbers of the UK prison population have been on the rise – less serious crimes have been more severely punished - whereas the number of financial penalties issued to offenders have been falling (Cavadino & Dignan, 2013). In 1975, approximately 40.000 people were imprisoned, that number has risen to 83.842 in 2013 (Berman & Dar, 2013). The prison population more than doubled in that time, whereas the overall population merely grew with 14% (World Bank, n.d.), thus, the relative growth of the prison population is significantly disproportional.
At the magistrate’s court (who deal with the majority of offences) in 1999, of all 1.32 million offenders, 74.4% were issued a fine. In 2009, that number had declined to 71.9% (Sentencing Statistics, 2009). A probable cause for the increase in prison population and decline of the amount of fines issued could be the government’s increased strictness. Since the late ‘90s it has been their aim to be “tougher on crime, and tougher on the causes of crime”. Ever since, and particularly since the events of 9/11 and events such as the bombing of the London Underground in 2005, the British government has become increasingly punitive (Cavadino & Dignan, 2013).
The question is, is the decrease in the amount of fines issued ...

... middle of paper ...

... the slight decrease (3%) of the prison population between 2012 and 2013 (Berman & Dar, 2013), would suggest that indeed, the justice system’s sentences have become slightly less punitive. Although the number of financial penalties has fallen, this is not necessarily a bad sign – in 10 years’ time, the number of fines issued has fallen with a mere 2.5%. Yet, more than two thirds of all offenders are issued a fine. Furthermore, the number of community service sentences has gone up with 4%, which is a promising trend.
To reiterate, as Garland (2001) stated, financial penalties are not rehabilitative, whereas community service sentences are. With the prison population hopefully continuing to fall, on the long term, less strict sentencing focussing on financial penalties and rehabilitative sentences would mean that recidivism will decrease, and less crime will occur.

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