Jim Rose: Andrew Little’s view put to test by world trends

NZ Herald 24 August 2018
Family First Comment: A fascinating article on crime and imprisonment…
“The economic and sociology literatures unite on the idea that an immediate penalty such as quick arrest and fast commitment to prison, even for a brief time, is a solid deterrent. There is much more debate about whether longer sentences deter, but good agreement that immediate prison time deters. The deterrent effect of prison bites faster and harder.
….Bigger prison populations deserve some credit for murder rates and crime in general in the US halving since 1991. On the softer side of the coin, violent and property crime have increased by so much in Europe despite generous welfare states, shorter prison terms and nicely appointed prisons that crime rates apart from homicide are worse in Europe than in the US.”

Italy has been good enough to road-test Andrew Little’s proposals to cut the prison population by 30 per cent. Italy has mass pardons of prisoners.

If you believe as Andrew Little appears to do, that prisons are a training academy for criminals, and longer sentences increase reoffending because prisoners are released even more brutalised by prison, releasing prisoners immediately in a mass pardon tests your ideas about deterrence versus brutalisation.

A mass pardon immediately frees prisoners from that brutalisating training ground for further crime — and makes clear what will happen if a lot fewer criminals are in prison today versus yesterday.

Does locking up criminals reduce crime simply by keeping them off the streets?

In its unexpected mass pardon in 2006 to reduce prison overcrowding Italy released one third of its prisoners, those with less than three years to serve, but with a twist. If they reoffended within five years, they would serve the remainder of their old sentence too.
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