Does prison work?

                         Does prison work?

Does prison work? Its a complex question, with millions of different view points.

My personal opinion that no prisons don’t work only applies to this country [Britain] and the USA, other countries have proved that with the right approach, prisons can and do work.

Reasons why prisons don’t work

  1.  Most (as in about two thirds)of our prison population, have no qualifications and many  have the reading age of a 11 year old when they enter prison where the lack of educational programmes  does little to remedy this. For the most prisoners are unemployable before they go jail, and they are even more unemployable on liberation with a criminal record.
  2.  Our prisons are  full of people serving sentences for non-violent crimes, a lot of whom have come from troubled backgrounds – a lot of prisoners both male and female, young and old alike grew up in care and are probably being liberated homeless.
  3. As our  prison population doubled in the last five years, the number of staff working in the prison estate has been cut by 30%, and  the prison budget has been  slashed by near a quarter.

As a result we have many overcrowded prisons with terrible conditions. It is estimated that 1/5 prisoners spends 22 hours a day in locked their cells; violence and drugs are commonplace and suicide rates are at their highest for 25 years.

“This means that many jails simply aren’t the kind of environments which are conducive to rehabilitation”


If you should ever have cause to actually enter one of Her Majesty’s prisons – as I have on many occasions as a prison er – you’ll be in a position to appreciate the high numbers of ethnic minorities, alcoholics, drug addicts and the mentally ill.

Like society you will discover that prisons are filled by endless rules applied by petty-minded, management-speak-spouting bureaucrats with their rules, programmes and so-called initiatives that result in the waste of the taxpayers money.

Not only does prison not work for the vast majority of those who endure it, either as punishment or as a catalyst toward rehabilitation, and there is no escaping that it functions as a stimulant to crime, rather than its bromide so to speak.

It seems to me that a significant portion of the British public, already infuriated by the “vast sums” spent on prisoners, hate and resent the notion of spending even more.

I believe they are right. Much more spending definetely would be required to effectively separate sheep capable of being herded in the right direction from the goats that simply have to be confined.

Much more money would also be needed to put in place drug and alcohol treatment programmes that actually work, and inspire change in individuals. Still more cash would be necessary to treat mentally ill inmates, teach illiterate prisoners and make the unskilled employable.

The cost-benefit analyses that are presented to the public, or at least the section of it whose cries for law and order make penal reform electoral suicide, resent this expenditure.

Anyway, it appears they don’t really want prisoners http://rehabilitation, they  want them punished. They want them locked down, maltreated and if it were possible beaten on a regular basis.

They want convicted prisoners to be the scapegoats for all that is wrong with our society, while paradoxically desiring them to pay their debt to it, as if spending 23-hours a day in a cell watching television could possibly equate with turning up for work, paying taxes and otherwise doing your bit. These people believe that punishment works and point to the their virtuous past to prove this.

I most certainly do recognise the need for imprisonment when someone has been convicted of a violent crime, but unless an individual represents a ‘credible’ physical threat I’d far rather he was set to work in the community to pay back whatever debt he is deemed to owe.

The raw meting out of punishment solves nothing, but there are some psychopaths who may have to be confined indefinitely.

Prisoners who are sentenced to a long-term sentence have the chance to look in-ward and rehabilitate themselves and some do, mostly by engaging with the arts in some shape or form, but prisoners who consistently serve short term sentences and are effectively doing a life sentence in installments find there is only chaos and violence on the prison hamster wheel that becomes their life, so sad.

Anyway the question of, does prison work? is a no from me, at least for the prisons  here and the USA.


Thanks,kindest regards, Danny

Rehabilitation through the arts

Mass incarceration



  1. Having worked within the prison system in Canada, I can certainly understand your point of view and agree with much of it. However I have also found that it is hard to have a discussion with anyone who has not had at least some contact with the system. If you have had contact with the system then gathered around a table having a couple of drinks and a civilized discussion is the way to go.

    • Definetely Byron, open up avenues of dialogue is always the answer, but to the powers that be want to listen?
      Thank-you for the comment

  2. Hi Danny,
    I found your article on prisons to be very interesting. As a retired attorney, I have discussed most of the issue presented and argued them in various contexts. I think that one issue that needs to be explored is the prison industrial complex and money. You are likely aware that privatization is a big element of the existence, prevalence, and size of prisons.
    I would be very interested in your take on the role privatization plays.
    Great article.
    Keep up the good work!

  3. I totally agree that prison is not the answer to the problem, rather it is for some the ultimate finishing school, a Harvard for criminals where many new contacts in the criminal world can be made.

    Rather than rehabilitation, prevention is a far better solution in my opinion. A Little like health where preventative health care functions better than curative.

    • Yes, Derek totally agree with your comment, rehabilitation should always be the main focus, if not and punishment is, what does that say about us as human beings?

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