Which costs more? Prison or community punishment?

Richard Enderby is a TopOfTheCops reader from Lincolnshire. He gives his perspective here on an issue he would like candidates to address – the relative costs of community sentences and imprisonment. If you would like your perspective on this or another relevant subject considered for publication, drop a line to Editor@TopOfTheCops.com

Candidates for the new Police Commissioner posts must initially be judged by what they say they intend doing in relation to actual policing in their county, and ultimately judged on whether they succeed, or it has been “Rhetoric” to quote the current buzz word. We must not let them detract from that, and saying they support being “Soft on crime” will ensure they do not get my vote.

However many prospective candidates have sidelined us into their views on such things as “Rehabilitation” “Community sentencing” etc, at the expense of policing, partnership working with the Chief Constable,  and supporting their police force where necessary. Although outside their new domain, they are singing the virtues of such “Soft” alternatives, rather than leaning towards “Zero tolerance.” Although a lower level issue zero tolerance on the wearing of seatbelts certainly worked in Lincs.

They are entitled to their opinions, and I trust the voters will take note. Furthermore their mantra usually stresses how much it costs to keep someone in prison. To me the cost is “What it takes” for many criminals and crimes, and it is impossible for them to argue against the fact that when someone is in prison they are hopefully not committing crimes. I would add I am not against rehabilitation in many instances, especially for first offenders – Total rejection would be stupid!

Whilst the cost of keeping someone in prison is important, and is far too expensive in my humble opinion, I have never seen them quoting the cost of keeping criminals out of jail, under some other “Soft sentence.”

There must be a huge cost in administration, bureaucracy, supervision, police time, benefit payments, etc in keeping someone under such schemes as “Community Sentences” – Not forgetting the capital cost of tags, monitoring equipment, etc, together with the cost to their victims, in both cash, stress, fairness, etc. To add to everything else is the so called “Fear factor” of people, many of them old and vulnerable, because they know the criminal is at large in their community.

There must be many more costs that I haven’t even thought of yet….and as we know from recent reports, the success rate is extremely low.

Work needs to be done in accurately quantifying these costs to redress the balance, and people must at least recognise the scales tip both ways.

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3 Responses to Which costs more? Prison or community punishment?

  1. Theo Hopkins says:

    You will be voting for thhe UKIP candidate, then?

  2. Richard Enderby says:

    No way – I would never vote for a Party candidate – These posts must be away from party politics. It is bad enough having the scrutiny panels heavily politicised. Have you studied them? Just 2 unpaid voluntary independent candidates with the rest being councillors. If we are not careful here in Lincs we could have a Conservative Govt, Conservative PCC, and Conservative controlled scrutiny panel – How democratic!! I will be voting for the best and most experienced Independent candidate in LIncolnshire – David Bowles – He doesn’t buy twitter followers, his track record at a senior level is second to none, and he is honest and has integrity. Indeed the Conservative County Council which is not too bad these days, owes that to him for what he exposed whilst their chief executive. What it would have been like now is anyone’s guess. Result was Conservative leader at the time – jailed. The party could do worse than drop their political candidate, get behind David and work with him.

  3. ianchisnall says:

    Hi Richard, the response from me is that some of your words are as rhetoric laden as the comments you are wanting to challenge. The real truth is that the truth is always a great deal more complex than anything but the most thorough empirical research on any given topic.

    For the record I believe passionately that there will always be some criminals and crimes which will demand a custodial sentence. To the best of my knowledge the only thing such a sentence guarantees is that the only victims of crimes commited whilst these people are in custody will be the other prisoners, prison staff or visitors. If we are going to lock people up we owe it to ourselves and to them to ensure that as much is done as possible to rehabilitate them whilst they are there which should in theory cut down on re-offending when released. If this adds to the expense of custody, that is a price worth paying.

    I also accept that there are some men and women who appear on the face of it to be unwilling to be rehabilitated (or they have not yet chosen such as course).

    I however believe that as part of any sentence the role of community punishments need to be considered, and as important as it is for us to know how much such things cost, that what we need to measure first and foremost is the liklihood of reoffending as a result of any sentence. If we have to measure something, let us focus on what it takes to rehabilitate those who can/will be rehabilitated.

    My personal view is that community sentences are not as costly as custody, but they are not cheap and nor should they be seen as simply being cheaper and therefore more desirable.

    I am not sure I have understood your comments so let me state that I think that anyone who believes that Rehabilitation is a soft issue and something liberal is foolish. If we want a safe society then we want as few people in prison as necessary at any one time, and for as many people as possible who are not in prison to be fully rehabilitated. Achieving that depends on not cutting corners on our penal sentences, but should in the long run be a more cost effective solution for all of us.

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