On 28 October 2014, the British Academy hosted a panel discussion on Crime, Punishment and Imprisonment.
Over the last two decades, the use of imprisonment as a form of criminal punishment in England and Wales and in Scotland has risen sharply. What is more, our reliance on imprisonment today is acutely out of line with similar countries in Western Europe. Recent reports have also highlighted serious issues within our prisons, such as a significant increase in the number of assaults between 2012/13. Other issues such as persistent overcrowding, understaffing, and the lack of appropriate care for offenders with mental health issues have also gained widespread media attention in the recent months.
In July 2014, the British Academy published a report, A Presumption Against Imprisonment: Social Order and Social Values (click link to download report), arguing that we should not rely so heavily on imprisonment as a form of punishment: we should not be imprisoning so many people, or for such long periods of time. The report also suggests some strategies for significantly reducing the prison population.
During the discussion, invited experts examined the findings and policy recommendations of the report, and offered their views on whether we are right to rely so heavily on this mode of punishment, especially given its financial and human cost, and how we may go about reducing our reliance on imprisonment.
The Panel included:
Lord Woolf FBA, former Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales (Chair)
Andrew Coyle, Emeritus Professor of Prison Studies, King’s College London, member of the report Steering Group
Alison Liebling, Professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice and Director of the Prisons Research Centre, University of Cambridge, and member of the report Steering Group
Mike Hough, Professor of Criminal Policy and Associate Director of the Institute for Criminal Policy Research, Birkbeck University of London
Juliet Lyon CBE, Director of the Prison Reform Trust
Nick Hardwick CBE, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons