A recent discussion between Erwin James and Jonathon Aitken draws attention once more to the apparent incompatibility between prison and rehabilitation. As both James and Aitken are former prisoners, it is perhaps understandable that they have strong feelings about imprisonment.
During their discussion James and Aitken touch on issues of honesty, recidivism, education as well as the cost of imprisonment. At the heart of their discussion is the realisation that even in the twenty first century it would seem that there is no real consensus as to what prisons are actually supposed to achieve. It appears that despite the great wealth of research carried out into imprisonment and recidivism, including such authors as Foucault, Ignatieff, Martinson, Cavadino and Dignan, the political will to rehabilitate offenders is often lacking.
What perhaps sets this particular discussion apart is its novel focus on the economics of rehabilitation. Possibly, Britain beset by recession may find a new impetus to explore rehabilitation in a more meaningful way. As Jonathon Aitken points out:
“If rehabilitation reduces reoffending, you have two bonuses: you save money and, perhaps more importantly, communities will start to feel safer.”