This essay sets out to identify and analyse the argument that prison sentences are not as effective as CSO, especially for young offenders. Moreover, this argument will be base on analysis and evaluation of views of different authorities, the statistics they present, the advantages and disadvantages. In addition, a comparison will follow based on those views and the facts they present. The debate over whether prison sentences are not as effective as community services orders for young offenders has attracted considerable controversy recently, because this issue tends to ignite passions and drive people into opposing camps.

On the one hand, we have those who believe that government should rethink who they should lock up (Dobson) because English and Welsh prisons are overcrowded due to higher number of ex-prisoners re-offending. 1 On the other hand, we have those who believe that the best remedy for offenders is prison (Lord Wolf),2 as well as those who think that prison is a good therapeutic way for prisoners, as long as there is good flexibility in the rules and prisoners are provided with the right help while in prison (Weale). 3

It is in the interest of any reasonable government to seek for the best solution to reduce crimes. However, is it really necessary to lock young offenders up for committing petty crimes? We can argue this point by saying that to find a solution or to get tough on crime it is not necessary to send petty offenders to prison; one of the reasons for that is that the statistics have shown the number of re-offending adults has increased and is considerably higher at the moment, and the other reason is that it takes people out of society and that creates social-economic problems such as unemployment.

Furthermore, we should also note that due to an increase in the re-offending rate, England and Wales are in the top league table for Western Europe as they incarcerate 145 per 100,000 of their population compared with 88 in France and 97 in Germany (that includes children and women). 5 Moreover, the key point to note is that the government should stop and think why the re-offending rate for ex-prisoners is increasing rather then decreasing when they have new legislation and a progressively tougher sentencing. Basically, from what we have seen from the statistics, the government instead of rectifying the law or seeing where they went wrong and rectifying it imposes more laws to lock people up (including petty crime offenders), which has led to more crimes instead a solution for the existing crimes.

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Furthermore, Jenkins supported the idea that the government should find better solutions to get tough on crime by stating that “getting tough on crime means finding out what is causing it and trying to redress that”. In addition, he went on to say that “British sentencing is not getting tough on crime but going soft in the head on crime. “9 He might have come to this conclusion because the implemented laws are leading to more crimes being committed. On the whole, if prison sentences were that effective for petty crimes, people would be scared to commit petty crimes and to re-offend, hence the number of prison custodies would decrease considerably and prisons in England and Wales wouldn’t be as overcrowded as they are today.

Lord Woolf’s guidelines issued in 2002 stated “[all people] should go to prison, even if no weapon or personal injury was involved”. 10 However, the judges and the magistrates refuse to accept those guidelines, and we can say that this is a perfectly good example to show that Jenkins view that judges don’t stand up to politicians is a strong inference which ought not to be taken into account. 11 Furthermore, we should support the judges’ and the magistrates’ idea of ignoring those guidelines because they seem rather primitive.

Moreover, it can be inferred from the statistics that imprisonment is not the best solution, as our prisons are still overcrowded despite the tougher legislation. Indeed, under Lord Wolf’s regime, imprisonment soared and broke all the known records in Europe. 13 In contrast with Lord Woolf’s guidelines, Lord Phillips’s guidelines appear to show a different approach, because he believes that “first time muggers using minimal force and no injury or weapons are involved shouldn’t go to prison automatically,” instead they should get a CSO in order to reduce crime and prison sentences.

This clearly shows that only Lord Wolf has a strong opinion when comes to prison sentences. 14 There is no contradiction that the government is trying to get tough on crime. However, what is in question here is how the government should tackle crime without having to lock people up? Both Carter and victims of non- violent crimes believe that making offenders carry out unpaid work in the community is a better alternative to short prison sentences. 15 However, is CSO more effective than prison sentences?

According to the statistics CSO seems to be more effective than prison sentences as it has the re-offending rate below that of ex- prisoners. 16 It is certainly hard to find a plausible alternative to prison sentences. Nevertheless, it can be argued that CSO would create more advantages as oppose to prison sentences, because so far, the clearest disadvantages for CSO is that it doesn’t prevent crimes from occurring. In contrast with many disadvantages that prison sentences has.

One of the clearest disadvantages of prison sentences is that it costs the state i?? 37,000 a year for each offender, and indirectly it costs tax payers money to keep offenders in prison. In addition, there are some other disadvantages such as offenders usually became jail hardener, they are brutalised while in prison, and as a result many prisoners usually take their own lives because they can’t handle being in prison, others are murder or even get ill and die in custody. 7Despite all those disadvantages we still see people being arrested for petty crimes.

As a result of those incidents that happen in prisons we are forced to agree with Ms Campbell’s view that prisons are unsafe places that constantly fails to uphold the duty of care that prison services has to all prisoners,18 as well as Jenkins who believes that British judges are creating a large, criminalised underclass of prisoners and their families in every community. 9 In conclusion, after looking at the views and evaluating them, it seems that there were strong arguments supporting CSO as opposed to prison sentences. In addition, statistics seems that CSO shows that less people re-offend and despite tougher laws we still see the number of re-offending rate increasing. Therefore in my view CSO are more effective then prison sentences.


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