Every time I watch one of these police programs on the telly I always get the feeling that the police are a little frustrated with the criminal justice system.  They do their bit and arrest the suspect and put them before the courts, yet the courts always seem to be very lenient when it comes to sentencing.  

You get the impression that the police know roughly who committed the relevant crimes in a set area but finding the concrete evidence is always an issue.  This is illustrated when the police do catch someone for something like burglary and they are put on trial and duly convicted; its then at that point that the burglar asks for other crimes to be taken in to consideration when passing sentence, which the judge does and they normally get a few more months in prison as a result. 

However the way I see things is we have the Law there as a deterrent to stop people committing crime with a punishment attached to it.  Now I think for the average person the risk of being sent to prison for something is not one that they want to take, as within the majority of society there is still a stigma attached to having been to prison.   

However for some people that stigma doesn’t apparently matter as there are a fair few people out there with a string of criminal convictions, which is illustrated by the UK’s re-offending rate.  Now there will be some people who will argue that people re-offend because prison doesn’t work and that these people are a perfect example as to why we shouldn’t keep sending people back to prison. 

However I think I have to disagree with that argument, I think they re-offend because prison fails to tackle the underlying issues of these people.  Prison is supposed to be about re-habilitating people who have done wrong so that when they are released they can be valued members of society.  If we are not going to tackle Mr Jones drug problem while he is in prison then when he comes out he’s only going to commit more crime to fund his drug addiction. 

This is where sentencing comes in to play, if Mr Jones has a drug problem then sending him to prison for a few weeks from burglary is not going to fix Mr Jones, his drug problem or reduce his likelihood to reoffend. 

Judges normally have a large amount of freedom when it comes to sentencing, as in most cases the guidelines published are nowhere near the maximum penalty they could hand out. Now if we made it mandatory that anyone with a drug or alcohol problem as part of their sentence had to go through rehabilitation, then we would reduce the likelihood that they would re-offend upon release.  Now obviously this wouldn’t be a cheap thing to do, and in a time of economic austerity some people would think it to be hard to justify the funding of such a program.  But I think there are ways around the funding issues, however we currently have 88,000 prisoners who are not really doing a lot.  If we were to utilise these people in making something or producing things they could actually generate a revenue stream that could be used to fund proper rehabilitation. 

So instead of sending Mr Jones to prison for 26 weeks, who then on release goes straight back to a life of crime to fund his drug problem, we would send him to prison to properly rehabilitate him so when he comes out he’s a productive member of society.  Now yes it would mean sending him to prison for longer, having him get clean from drugs and having him and the other prisoners work but in the long term it should reduce crime and the amount of money we spend catching people, prosecuting them and subsequently locking them up.  Prison should be about rehabilitation and punishment then it should work to the benefit of society. 

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