In recent years, there has been a push for research to focus on prisoner reintegration. In response, researchers have begun investigating a number of important topics such as how to use theory to inform policy and practice, how to determine which prison programs work best to aid in reintegration, how to minimize the impact children face from having an incarcerated parent, how to acknowledge the important link that exists between sentencing and release, and how to take a holistic yet individualized approach when it comes to prisoner reentry. In this post, I will briefly summarize five recent research articles that deal with prisoner reintegration before briefly discussing which directions appear to be especially promising. (more…)
Source: Gordon Incorporated
Over the past 400 years, the Western criminal justice system (CJS) has greatly evolved. Like virtually all social institutions, its evolution has been highly impacted by the wider social environment. Along with the arrival of new technologies, philosophies, and aspirations, the Western CJS has altered its policies and practices. One very important change that has taken place over the past few centuries has been the birth of the modern prison system. Strongly inspired by factors related to capitalism, the prison system has continuously oscillated between focusing on incapacitation, deterrence, rehabilitation, and retribution. Beyond economic reasons, part of this fluctuation has taken place because of the West’s increasing desire to punish offenders mentally as opposed to physically as well as its vacillating theories regarding the true “nature of man.” In response to such ideas, it is important to consider exactly where and how the modern prison was born as well as what factors contributed to its creation. (more…)
Candidate Barack Obama promised to enact immigration reform in his first term. That promise is almost certain to go unfulfilled. The result of years of heated debate has been deadlock between two seemingly irreconcilable positions. On one hand, many in congress support a “path to citizenship” for undocumented workers and increased legal immigration. On the other, a substantial number argue for greater border enforcement, mass deportation, and decreased immigration. While the status quo has virtually no vocal support, systems create entrenched interest no matter how much everyone claims to despise that system. Furthermore, the deadlock may have entrenched a dominant discursive framework that impedes reform. (more…)
Bob Howard of the BBC has recently published an article looking at a scheme to combat sex offender recidivism. Originating in Canada, friendship circles are ‘based on the premise that while some offenders have friends and family to return to when they come out of prison, others have not and the more isolated they are, the more likely they are to re-offend’. Throughout the article, Sarah from London talks about her experiences as a volunteer for the child protection charity The Lucy Faithfull Foundation
Given the emotive nature of the crimes these particular offenders have been found guilty of, it is unsurprising that Sarah admits to some trepidation and concern prior to volunteering for the scheme. However, taking into account the positive results reported by Canada (currently a reduction in reoffending of 70%) it would appear to be more effective than traditional and arguably, more punitive methods.
Perhaps understandably, the scheme is not without its critics. For example Peter Saunders of the National Association of People Abused in Childhood suggests that electronic tagging would be a more appropriate response. Judging by the angry public comments which invariably follow any news story on the rehabilitation of sex offenders (this one included) it would seem that supporters of this scheme will have their work cut out.
Kelly M. Socia Jr and Janet P. Stamatel on ‘Assumptions and Evidence Behind Sex Offender Laws: Registration, Community Notification, and Residence Restrictions’
Chas Critcher on ‘Moral Panic Analysis: Past, Present and Future’
Philip Laing, the 19 year old student from Sheffield Hallam University has become the latest focus for the media. Recently photographed urinating upon a poppy wreath at a Second World War Memorial, Laing has attracted an enormous amount of negative attention. Although, Laing claims he was drunk at the time, and remembers nothing of the events of that evening, he did make ‘a full and complete admission’ when confronted by the photographic evidence. Upon appearing in court this week the teenager was warned that he may face a custodial sentence for what the judge described as a ‘disgusting and reprehensible’ act.
Although, many may agree with the judge’s comments, it seems that this case offers an outlet for many emotive concerns, not least binge drinking. Although, Laing has admitted his actions, and apologised profusely for them, the judge has raised concerns about the culture surrounding binge drinking. Carnage, the company responsible for arranging the pub crawl, has come in for particular censure. In the week leading up to Remembrance Sunday, which has seen increasing numbers of British deaths in Afghanistan, this case was bound to raise disquiet. However, by focusing on the actions, albeit distasteful, of one teenager, we run the risk of creating little more than a smokescreen. Thus, avoiding much wider and more important debates such as the nature of nationalism, patriotism and pacifism, together with growing concern over the continuing British military presence overseas.
Andy Ruddock on ‘Media Studies 2.0? Binge Drinking and Why Audiences Still Matter’
For criminologists and sociologists, prison has for many decades provided a fertile environment for research. In recent decades, the focus has been on overcrowding, together with attempts to identify the composition of the prison population. As at 25 September 2009, Her Majesty’s Prisons contain some 84,382 incarcerated men and women.
On the same date the BBC reported that as many as 8,500 of these prisoners are former veterans of the British army, navy and air force. Moreover, this is not the whole picture as Napo, the Probation Office’s union, estimate that a further 12,000 plus ex-service personnel are being dealt with by the criminal justice system. For many of these men and women, their crimes relate to alcohol and drug abuse, as well as domestic violence. Although these crimes may not be unique to ex-service personnel, claims have been made by Napo that ‘[i]t’s the hidden kind of consequences of war.’ In essence, the very nature of their military career—be it post-traumatic stress disorder, or a lack of support upon leaving the services—can make the return to “civvy street” highly problematic.
Despite the government’s insistence that this particular concern is at the ‘forefront of the prime minister’s mind,’ it does raise some very interesting issues. The British media often appears to present issues in very black and white terms. Arguably the terms hero and villain are so diametrically opposed it is difficult to imagine how they will portray these particular individuals.
Doreen Anderson-Facile on Basic Challenges to Prisoner Reentry
Robin L. Riley on Women and War: Militarism, Bodies, and the Practice of Gender
The links between illegal drug use and crime, particularly acquisitive, have long been recognised as problematic. Recent statistics published in The Independent suggest that as few as ten percent of addicts commit 75 percent of all acquisitive crime. In spite of these consistently dispiriting figures, the familiar approach is one of punishment, with some attempt at rehabilitation. Moreover, all of these programmes have at their foundations an aim to ensure their clients maintain complete desistance from drug use.
However, recent trials—first at the Maudsley Hospital in London, but later extended to Darlington and Brighton—suggest that the way to break the link between drugs and crime should be tackled in an entirely different way. The creation of so-called NHS “shooting galleries”, where long-term addicts can get a regular, monitored fix of heroin, would appear to be having success, not only in cutting crime, but also in reducing drug use. This week the UK National Treatment Agency for Substance Abuse is expected to call for a network of these clinics to be created across the country.
However, illegal drug (ab)use is often seen very emotively, and while this initiative may make good economic and indeed, medical sense, there will be many critics. First, the programme is not cheap (although cheaper than prison), second, the already over stretched budgets of the NHS, and finally, the moral dimension, as to whether those criminalised should be given free drugs, regardless of benefit to society. No doubt this debate will continue for some considerable time.
Eric L. Jensen on Adult Drug Treatment Courts: A Review
The BBC has today announced that the British government has decided to scrap plans for the creation of so-called “Titan” prisons. These prisons – first announced in December 2007 – were each expected to accommodate 2,500 prisoners at a cost of £350 million per institution. Although, the introduction of these prisons has been met with criticism, (partly because of their perceived similarity to American jails), it had seemed as if the government was totally committed to the project.
At present, HMP Wandsworth [pictured] is the largest institution in the prison estate (currently accommodating 1,461 prisoners), but the government plans a further five establishments with capacity for 1,500 in each. In spite of the current economic climate, government sources deny there is any link between the economy and their decision regarding the “Titan” jails. Instead, the Ministry of Justice has pointed out that prison places will still increase as originally planned, although the new prisons will be smaller.
Although, many groups and individuals may initially welcome the demise of the “Titan” prisons, it would seem that the problems of incarceration are still not being tackled. Arguably, by continuing to create more places, the prison crisis will continue unabated.
Doreen Anderson-Facile on Basic Challenges to Prisoner Reentry
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.”
Doreen Anderson-Facile on Basic Challenges to Prisoner Reentry
The Chief Inspector of Prisons, Dame Anne Owers has recently expressed concern at the escalation of prison violence in England and Wales. While, she has acknowledged that, thus far the violence has been effectively contained, it would seem that this may struggle to continue. In her Annual Report she identifies many areas of concern, but once more the main focus appears to be on overcrowding.
In spite of some positive areas—particularly in relation to the help provided to prisoners upon release—Anne Owers articulates considerable anxiety at the current state of British prisons. Such a viewpoint is shared by Juliet Lyon (Prison Reform Trust) who also pinpoints the increasing prison population, as well as major concerns with the Government’s proposal to build super-sized ‘Titan jails’ to deal with the problem.
Since the creation of the first prisons we have seen a continuing debate over the purpose of prison. Questions of rehabilitation, incapacitation and recidivism crop up again and again. It would appear that even today we are no closer to answering Robert Martinson’s question ‘What Works?’ Until a satisfactory conclusion is reached it is unlikely that any real progress can be achieved.
Meredith Rossner on Healing Victims and Offenders and Reducing Crime