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Effectiveness of Punishment and Prisons Essays

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Effectiveness of Punishment and Prisons

Studies of the effectiveness of punishments often use reconviction
rates as a measurement of success or failure. According to fairly
recent reports there are currently no real differences between
reconviction rates for custodial and all community penalties (Home
Affairs Committee, 1998, Home Office, 1998). However, there are many
problems associated with the reliability of such data, and much
caution is needed when using such measurements as a criteria for
assessing the effectiveness of punishment. For instance, there is
much disagreement about what reconviction should be counted. For
community penalties the counting began on the date of sentence whereas
for custodial sentences the counting begins on the date of release
(May, 1994). therefore, does not take
into account any offence committed whilst in prison. On the
other hand, there is no way of knowing how far re-offending whilst
serving a community sentence is due to the ineffectiveness of the
punishment or an individuals social circumstance. The 1998 report by
the Home Affairs Committee draws attention to even more concerns
regarding reconviction rates. It is stated that:

“Reconviction rates take any subsequent reconviction as an indication
of failure and do not take into account changes in offence severity or
a reduction in the frequency of offending; Reconviction rates
under-estimate the true level of re-offending since for many types of
offence the clear up rate is very low; Police Forces have varying
clear up rates which reflect differences in the changes of being
arrested and re-convict...


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HMSO.

Home Office (1998) Prison Statistics England and Wales 1998, London:
HMSO.

Hood, R. G and Sparks, R.F. (1970) Keys issues in criminology, London:
Weidenfeld and Nicolson.

Hood, R (1992) Race and Sentencing: A study in the Crown Court, Oxford:
Clarendon Press.

May, T. (1994) ‘Probation and Community Sanctions’, in Maguire. et al
(eds) The Oxford Handbook Of Criminology, 1st ed. Oxford: Clarendon
Press.

McLaughlin, E and Muncie, J. (1996) Controlling Crime, London: Sage.

Vass, A. (1990) Alternatives to Prison, Custody and the Community,
London: Sage.

Wilson, D and Ashton, J. (1998) What every one in Britain should know
about Crime and Punishment, London: Blackstone Press.

Worall, A (1997) Punishment in the Community: The future of Criminal
Justice, Harlow: Addison Wesley Longman.


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