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Our prisons: Are they doing what we expect of them? Analyzing political and social responses to Criminal Penalties in the United Kingdom

Our prisons: Are they doing what we expect of them? Analyzing political and social responses to Criminal Penalties in the United Kingdom

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Published by: Alex on Apr 06, 2011
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Our prisons: Are they doing what we expect of them? Analyzing political and socialresponses to Criminal Penalties in the United KingdomDissertation ProposalIntroduction
The English prisons are divided into three major subdivisions. These are England andWales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. All jurisdiction and responsibility for the prisonslies with the British Prime Minister.The highest per capita imprisonment rate in Western Europe is unenviably held by theUnited Kingdom. As of September 01, 1989, the total UK prison population amounted to55047 prisoners- that are 95.6 prisoners per 100,000 citizens (Council of Europe, 1989).The most common problems tabulated in the often restrictive-access prisons are limitedor no in-cell plumbing for prisoners, bad conditions for pre-trial prisoners, and a lack of educational or work activities for the majority of prisoners (Collins & Burns, 1992).Furthermore, the mentally disturbed as well psychiatric prisoners have not been providedwith the proper medical facilities that they require. There has also been quite an amountof literature amassed regarding drug abuse with in the prison boundaries.The executive agency of the British Prison and Probation Service is NOMS- NationalOffender Management Service. There has been widespread speculation about the role of NOMS in keeping the British population safe from offenders, although that is its mainpurpose (Hedderman, 2005). It was created to help manage the prison systems to keep thepublic safe, as well as to restrict re-offending. The main method by which it purports tokeep the UK public safe is by ensuring that the offenders who are sentenced each year doundertake that punishment. It also works in close liaison with agencies to reduce the rateof re-offending.Much has also been written against the use of imprisonment-both from a philosophicaland moral viewpoint (Walker, 1991; Hudson, 2003). There has always been strongargument about whether prison punishments are really effective in keeping the crime ratedown, or are they a political and social tool to gain a means to an end. In particular,literature is concerned with the level of confidence and trust that has been reflected in theUK public as a consequence of imprisoning offenders, whether such a measure hasindeed reduced the rate of re-offending, as well as crime. In addition, rising prisonpopulation has also led to rising imprisonment costs, thereby putting an economic andsocial strain on the facilities.The social attitude towards imprisonment has revealed that the British public hasexpressed the need to be kept aware of criminal sentences, irrespective of the crime rateor the type of changes in the policies implemented (Hough & Roberts, 2002). It points tothe fact that the public is largely unaware of the prison system and criminal justiceapproaches. Due to this negative awareness, the public hold the judges in negative esteemand doubt the severity of prison sentences. Another important social response to theprison system of UK is the perception that the sentences meted out in criminal cases is far too lenient than what it actually deserves.This dissertation aims to assess the state of UK prisons at present and the policiesfollowed in penal judgment analysis. It aims to view the political as well as the socialpressure faced by the UK prisons.
The major aim of this dissertation is to assess the penal system in force in UK prisons, themechanism behind criminal sentencing, and the political and social pressures faced by theUK Prison system. It aims to examine the efficacy of the judicial system, and howsuccessful the UK Prisons are in reducing and deterring the crime rate on the whole, andspecifically with regard to re-offenders.
To critically examine the Prison system in force in the UK at present
To critically examine the judicial policies and processes in criminal sentencing
To evaluate the efficacy of the judicial management, specifically the PrisonService and NOMS, in proper maintenance of Prison safety and in helping todeter re-offenders
To evaluate the political response and accountability towards formulation of criminal policies and aims and objectives behind the policies, as well as their effectiveness
To examine these policies in light of social responses and perceptions of thegeneral public at large regarding the success of UK prison policies and thejudicial systems efficacy in crime deterrence
Research Question:
What is the role of UK Prisons in crime deterrence and what is the political and socialresponse to the UK Prison system in force right now? Are the policies being implementedgood enough to deter crime, or do policies need to be evaluated in a fresh light?
Literature Review
Although not much, but some research has gone into various aspects dealing with thestate of UK prisons, the criminal policies and reforms in action, both at present and over time. Political and social responses have also been measured to evaluate the generalresponse to the efficacy of the prisons. Several authors have attempted to visit the prisonsto address the issues from the other side, noting the prison infrastructure and social aswell as physical conditions of the inmates. Much research has also been conducted toevaluate the prison conditions and their effect on the in-mates, the psychologicalperspective as well as prison statistics. The focal point of my dissertation is an evaluationof the UK Prison system as a whole, the political and social responses to the judicialsystem and the efficacy of the system in crime reduction and deterrence.Carol Hedderman is a Professor of Criminology who has written on various aspectsrelated to UK Prisons. The main literature pertinent to my area of study for thisdissertation titled “NOMS and the Prison Population” looks at the role of NOMS and itsefficacy in helping curb the rate of crime and its efforts and effects on the prisonpopulation. She examines the population statistics, both in general and specifically withrelation to male and female head count and tries to make out a case of whether the risingprison population justifies the role of NOMS and what kind of feelings and perceptions itevokes in the general public. Her review finds no conclusive evidence to relate theincrease in imprisonment to a reduction in crime rate. This is a disturbing fact as it pointsto a general lack of effort on the part of the Prison Service and NOMS in curbing crime
rate. Qualitative and quantitative researches like this which lead to a negative correlationbetween increase in prison population and crime rate evokes negative social responses.There is evidence that by 2012, one-third of the total UK prison population may be liableto be facing indefinite imprisonment (Sanders, 2011). This is feared by many to lead tostrains on an already highly populated prison system in the country, as well as reduce theefficacy of the prison management services (Mc-Lennan Murray, 2011). This evidence isalso purported to qualify the present penal system of the UK Prisons as a ‘policydisaster’.Another concept that has been widely researched and advocated is Restorative Justice(Rossner, 2011). It analyses the effect of the present judicial system and examines theefficacy of the current criminal policies with regard to crime deterrence. It then goes onto evaluate alternative forms of justice, mainly restorative in nature, that may be morebeneficial in helping crime reduction rather than merely brute force deterrence that is theunderlying concept of the present penal system. There is some literature that supports thetheory, which advocates that criminals be made to repay to the community through someaction on their part in order to realize their offense. The advantage here is that it involvesthe psychological faculties of the inmates as well as the general public, who are moreappreciative of the efforts of the offenders rather than if they were just serving out aprison sentence.
There are several factors that limit for the exhaustive data collection as required for thequantitative analysis. However, this research will be based on the analysis of secondarydata on the basis of relevant theoretical support. In this respect the aim of the dissertationwill be addressed through desk research.The desk research will begin with text books related to the prison system managementand the agencies handling the prison services, as well as the statistics to identify therelated theories. In addition, articles in journals, related news papers will be referred for the currents updates. For the study of the books and journals; college library, some locallibraries, and the online library of a reputed British University Library will be used. And Ihave access to all these above mentioned libraries. The results from the desk research willbe used to formulate the data analysis strategy, find the inductive approach to research.Since this is a secondary research, all the data that are required for the analysis will beaccessed from the website of the official Ministry of Justice and the UK NationalStatistics. The information about the prison population rates and any increase or decreasewill be accessed from the official website of Bank of England. The information about theinfrastructure, management, services and associated problems will be obtained from theofficial website of UK Ministry of Justice.
Time scale
The whole dissertation will be divided in manageable pieces of work as shown in theGant Chart in the appendix A.

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