Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Spirit Level on Imprisonment


In Wilkinson & Pickett's book The Spirit Level (2010) we hear that:

"More people are imprisoned in more unequal countries"

"In the USA prison population s have been increasing steadily since the early 1970s...In the UK...numbers have doubled since 1990...Only 12% of the growth of state prisoners [in the US] ...could be put down to increases in criminal offending...88% of increased imprisoment was due to increasing likelyhood that convicted prisomers were sent to prison rather than being given non -custodial sentences and due to the the increased length of prison sentences."

"In California in 2004, there were 360 people serving life sentences for shop-lifting"

"About forty prison sentences for shoplifting are handed out every day in the UK"

Does it work?

According to the book " there appears to be a trend toward higher rates of re-offending in more punitive systems " USA and UK, re-offending rates are generally beween 60 and and 65% with lower rates in less harsh envoronments like Sweden and Japan between 33 and 40%.

"Societies that imprison more people also spend less of their wealth of their citizens."

Criminologists Downes & Hansen talk of the changes that come to a society with the phenomenon of 'penal expansion and welfare contraction' and sociologist Currie discusses the fact that since 1884 California built 1 new college and 21 new prisons.

"In more unequal countries money is diverted away from positive spending on welfare, education, etc., into criminal and judicial systems."

Sounding familiar?


QI on Imprisonment in the US

Check out The Equality Trust for more info on the benefits of equality and disadvantages of inequality



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