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A Presumption Against Imprisonment: Social Order and Social Values

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This report looks at the issues of crime and punishment, and why we seem unable to reduce our reliance on imprisonment. The study explores the reasons behind the high prison population in the UK, as well as offering contributions to the ongoing debate about why and how we should try to reduce both the number of people we imprison, and the length of time for which many are imprisoned.

The report was launched at an event hosted by the British Academy on 3 July 2014, attended by policy-makers and academics.

Following on from the report, the British Academy hosted a panel discussion on 'A Presumption Against Imprisonment?' on 28 October 2014, attended by academics, policy-makers, charities, the private sector and the general public.

The report is split into three parts:

Part I – Where We Are Now and How We Got Here
Analyses changes in the use and practice of imprisonment in the UK over the last twenty years that has led us to the where we are now and provides an overview of the current situation.

Part II – Why Our Imprisonment Policies Should Change
Discusses some of the reasons why we should, as a matter of urgency, try to move towards a lower use of, and reliance on, imprisonment in our formal response to criminal offending.

Part III – Strategies for Reducing the Prison Population
Examines possible strategies through which a presumption against imprisonment could be given practical force and could thus help to reduce our excessive reliance on imprisonment.

The authors

Rob Allen, co-Director of Justice and Prisons
Andrew Ashworth, Emeritus Vinerian Professor of English
Law, University of Oxford
Roger Cotterrell, Anniversary Professor of Legal Theory, Queen Mary University of London
Andrew Coyle CMG PhD FKC, Emeritus Professor of Prison Studies, King’s College London
Antony Duff, Emeritus Professor of Philosophy, University of Stirling
Nicola Lacey FBA, School Professor of Law, Gender and Social Policy, London School of Economics
Alison Liebling, Professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice and Director of the Prison Research Centre, University of Cambridge
Rod Morgan, Emeritus Professor of Criminal Justice, University of Bristol


Publication date: 2014

ISBN number: 978-0-85672-615-6