Mar 19, 2012
This article is reprinted from Workers’ Fight, a publication put out by comrades of the revolutionary communist organization of the same name in Great Britain.
Britain’s prison population has been hovering around a record 87,700 for months – ever since the courts started dishing out draconian sentences following last summer’s riots. With 151 persons imprisoned for every 100,000 of population, Britain has the highest incarceration rate in Western Europe. By comparison, Germany, with 95 per 100,000 and France with just 85 per 100,000, have static or even falling prison populations. [And, we should add, the U.S. with its massive prison system locks up 731 per 100,000.]
Yet it’s not as if Britain’s justice system had a better record than the rest of Western Europe – rather the opposite. But under pressure from politicians who play on reactionary prejudices, the courts choose to lock up defendants for the pettiest of crimes: more than half of all sentences are for less than six months.
So never mind the fact that prisons are well-known for turning petty offenders into entrenched criminals.
Never mind either, that petty crimes have generally much more to do with social problems and deprivation, mental disorders, or addictions, which could and should be dealt with using structures designed to provide help rather than coercion.
It’s so much easier to pander to the “hang ‘em, flog ‘em” brigade than to address the faults of this social system!