Prison works – prison doesn’t work

Thursday 15 July 2010 at 3:30 pm | In News | Post Comment
Lord Chancellor, Kenneth Clarke
The Lord Chancellor, Kenneth Clarke has re-opened a debate about prison numbers.

Figures show that, between 1993 and 2010 the prison population in England and Wales rose from 44,500 to 85,000. During the same period, crime fell by a half from 18.5m offences. This appears to suggest that as crime fell by just under a half at the same time as the prison population grew by nearly a half, prison works. A similar trend has been seen in the United States.

However, Clarke argues that there is no “direct correlation” between prison numbers and crime rates. The fall in the crime rate during the 1990s, he suggested, was more down to his policies as chancellor than Michael Howard’s as home secretary.

A confidential strategy unit report drawn up in 2006 argues that 80% of the recent decrease in crime is due to economic factors. Crime fell again today with figures released showing a 9% fall.

Clarke’s argument is supported by other data. Between 1951 and 1971 the prison population doubled, while during the same period police-recorded crime trebled. Between 1971 and 1991 recorded crime trebled whilst prison numbers remained largely unchanged.

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