When we think of justice; some people think of punishment, others think about reparation. How many of us think of rehabilitation or reform of a criminal?
When a crime takes place, it is right and proper to want justice in the form of ‘paying back’. The criminal paying back to the victim, to the victim’s family or even ‘paying back’ for the crime that they committed with their freedom.
Depending on the crime, some might say that there are crimes that are just unforgivable and no ‘payback’ will ever suffice. This could be true.
But, how smart is our justice system? Does the justice system reduce crime? Do the sentences rehabilitate offenders so that they don’t reoffend? Has crime reduced in recent years as a result of a smarter justice system? Unfortunately, the answer is no.
The premise for this column comes amid campaigns to abolish prison sentences for less than six months (unless they were violent offences). This idea has been echoed in the Justice Select Committee’s recent report. This has caused a public outcry, with critics suggesting the justice system is ‘too lenient’ but let’s hear the argument for this:
– 66% of prisoners who have served sentences under 1 year reoffend within 12 months.
– Average annual costs to the taxpayer to imprison someone are £35k+.
– Low-level offenders spend short sentences ‘learning more’ from experienced criminals inside of prisons.
– Above all, “locking ‘em up” clearly isn’t working, 66% of these offenders are not ‘learning the lesson’ that we’d hope for.
Wouldn’t it be more of a success story if £35k was spent on mental health or drugs treatment which resulted in offenders never committing crime again?
I’ve been a victim of crime twice in recent years. Firstly, when a class A drug-user burgled my house whilst I was sleeping upstairs. He served a short custodial sentence. In all honesty, his addiction meant that he would do anything- including crime- to get his next fix, without tackling the root cause of his addiction, this life of crime will only continue for him and sadly, other victims. A ‘smarter’ judicial process would have seen this man checked in to rehab, clean from addiction and not draining the tax-payer in police, prison and other costs.
But can everyone be rehabilitated? No. Last year, I was the victim of a sexual crime. The perpetrator cornered me on a street when I was campaigning. He was in his car and pulled over to me and indecently exposed himself, and, I thought he was going to rape me. I screamed and ran away. The police caught him and he was a known sex offender who’d done this a number of times to women. Real justice would be if he was able to be rehabilitated and no other woman had to go through what I did ever again. But, clearly, his ‘lesson’ has not been learnt. He’s had numerous community orders but still he continues to do this to women.
I see both sides of the argument for abolishing sentences under six months (excluding violent offences). So, rather than looking at how we can be ‘soft’ or ‘hard’ on crime, why don’t we get smarter on how we respond to crime?