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Analysis and Comment (32)

Opening doors for former offenders. Peter Macdiarmid/PA Archive

University courses for prisoners could reduce re-offending rates

Re-offending rates of former prisoners in England and Wales are stubbornly high, at more than 50% for young adults – and this costs the taxpayer between £9.5m and £13m per year. Despite the fact that research…
It doesn’t have to be like this. Lucy Nicholson/Reuters

The case for closing down women’s prisons

It sounds like a radical idea. Stop incarcerating women, and close down women’s prisons. But in the UK, there is a growing movement, sponsored by a peer in the House of Lords, to do just that. The argument…
Is California ready for prison reform? Lucy Nicholson/Reuters

California’s Proposition 47: softer on crime

On November 4, 2014, Californians will vote on Proposition 47, the Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act. The measure would change many crimes from felonies, which generally require prison terms, to misdemeanors…
Kicking foreign prisoners out isn’t – and shouldn’t be – easy. Yorkshire Police

Why it’s difficult to deport foreign offenders

Once upon a time, you could tell an election was just around the corner when politicians of all kinds started talking relentlessly about crime. “Tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime” was Tony Blair’s…
A Welcome to Country ceremony opens Darwin’s new $500 million facility last month to house rising numbers of prisoners, 85% of whom are Indigenous, a grossly overrepresented group. AAP/Neda Vanovac

Justice reinvestment saves huge costs of law-and-order auctions

A number of reports, most recently Victorian and NSW crime statistics, show crime rates are falling. But as election time looms in these states, their governments' focus on tough law-and-order policies…
Cutting sentences would take little more than political will. Ian Nicholson/PA Archive/Press Association Images

How to reduce the prison population in one easy step

Alarm is spreading once again about the state of UK prisons, with reports that more than 15,000 assaults were committed by prisoners in 2013-14. Justice minister Chris Grayling might be quick to argue…
A recent Ombudsman’s report is damning of the Victorian criminal justice sector, particularly around issues of accountability and transparency. shutterstock

Lifting the veil on the crisis in Victoria’s prisons

Victorian Ombudsman George Brouwer’s report on deaths and harm in Victorian prisons may have largely sailed under the public radar, but it shines a rare spotlight on the levels of systemic harm in custody…
HMP Grampian opened for business early in March. George Lamb

Scotland’s newest prison is another nod to Scandinavia

HMP Grampian, which opened in March, lies on the southern side of the fishing port of Peterhead. This is high on the north-east Scottish coast, more than 50km north of Aberdeen. It is a public project…
When we imprison adults, we are more often than not imprisoning parents. So what happens to their children? shutterstock

As we imprison more adults, what’s happening to the children?

Over the past six months, Victoria’s prison system has been widely acknowledged as overcrowded and at “breaking point”. Police cells are full of those awaiting a court hearing. The County Court is being…
HMP Oakwood, the vanguard of British carceral design. John M/Creative Commons.

Bad design breeds violence in sterile megaprisons

In the first few weeks of 2014, private security company G4S has repeatedly had to deny reports of full-scale riots at the UK’s newest prison, HMP Oakwood, near Wolverhampton. The prison has experienced…
Give me a hand, the key’s stuck. PA

Hard evidence: does prison really work?

In front of British courts last year were 148,000 people who had 15 or more previous convictions, according to government figures. These reports deserve closer scrutiny. The justice minister, Chris Grayling…
The number of inmates in Victorian prisons is on the rise as part of the government’s tough on crime stance. But at what cost? shutterstock

Tough on crime: Victoria is not learning lessons from abroad

Locking up people is easy. It is the first refuge of intellectually bankrupt politicians clamouring for votes by “getting tough” on crime. A good general will read history before going to war, so a good…
Banged up: a Bill on prisoners' voting rights is presently before parliament. PA Archive

Prisoners should not be locked out of democracy

The news that Peter Chester and George McGeoch have had their Supreme Court appeal against the ban on prison inmates voting dismissed will cause few people on the outside to lose much sleep - in fact the…
There’s been outcry over Norwegian right-wing extremist Anders Breivik’s plans to study at the University of Oslo. EPA/Stian Lysberg Solum/Pool Norway out

Anders Breivik and the humanity of education in prison

Anders Breivik ensured his place in history the day he shot dead 69 people on a small Norwegian Island, having earlier killed eight others with a bomb planted in government offices in Oslo. Breivik’s horrendous…
HMP Birmingham: assaults reportedly rose 46% David Jones/PA

When it comes to prisons, big is not necessarily beautiful

As expected, the justice secretary, Chris Grayling, has announced the closure of four prisons: Northallerton, Dorchester, Reading and Blundeston. He has also confirmed that the “Titan” prison in Wrexham…
Prisoners' mental health was identified as an issue in the 1700s. Pickersgill Reef

Police are unprepared to care for people with mental illness

As long ago as 1780, John Howard noted that prisons were housing more “idiots and lunatics” and emphasised the detrimental effects that this had on the prison regime for both sets of prisoners. But while…
Alcatraz has shut, but many more prisons have opened since in the US. Shobe834/Flickr

America’s penal arms race holds few lessons for the UK

It appears that Britain is following the United States in its addiction to the use of prison terms. The USA has led the way in the penal arms race with the introduction of such measures as “three strikes…
Prisoners are having sex whether we like it or not and a lack of condoms affects us all. PA/Barry Batchelor

Prisoners have sex so let them have condoms

The idea of prisoners having sex upsets people; it offends our sense that prison is a place of punishment not pleasure. But sex still happens, maybe more than we like to think. And if it is happening…
Do we really need to track offenders from space? satellite image via

GPS monitoring may intrude on prisoners' privacy

GPS monitoring has been introduced as a potentially revolutionary technology to solve the problems that beset modern prisons - chronic overcrowding, uncontrolled costs, and the failure to correct behaviour…
The High Court decision against Palm Island rioter, Lex Wotton highlights concerns about how little our constitution does to protect us. AAP Image/Ian Hitchcock

Silencing Lex Wotton: Palm Island riot decision a blow for freedom of speech

When a prisoner has served their time, it’s difficult to understand why they would be stopped from engaging in public debate or communicating with the media. But a new precedent has been set by the High…
It costs $207 a day to keep one prisoner in jail. Flickr/winterofdiscontent

Prison rates down, but not enough

Australia’s prison population is decreasing. But it’s a little too early to break out the champagne. The huge regional differences reveal that imprisonment is not based on the crime you commit, but the…
People who commit serious crime are sent to prison as punishment, not for punishment. f o/Flickr

When freedom is fatal: the preventable deaths of recently released prisoners

A study published today in the Medical Journal of Australia concludes that more prison inmates in Australia die in the year after they’ve been released than the annual number of deaths in custody. A disproportionate…
Convicted killer Arthur Freeman is led away from the Supreme Court in Melbourne. AAP

The fraught issue of how we deal with mentally ill offenders

Arthur Freeman’s involvement in an altercation in Victoria’s Barwon prison this week has again highlighted the fraught issue of how we deal with offenders who commit crimes that many of us assume could…

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