The likelihood of the penal system in the UK and other Western countries facing similar challenges in the current climate to the ones former Soviet countries faced post-collapse is moderate to high. Crime rates and imprisonment rates have no correlation – high or low use of custody is a question of political will and nothing else. In the UK in the past decade crime has fallen steadily whilst the imprisonment rate has virtually doubled in steps over 15 years, in addition to the thousands of new offences which have been added to the statute books via 55 new Criminal Justice acts. Since 1996, the number of under-14s going into custody has increased by a staggering 550% – this is just one illustration of the default response to society’s problems being an inappropriate criminal justice-based one.
The situation is not unique to the UK, these problems are endemic in the Western world. In the US nearly 8% of citizens have been in contact in with the criminal justice system. In the Netherlands (once the poster child of penal reformers) the prison population has tripled since the 1990s. Poland, which did so well to reform the Soviet-style system has gone far the other way, and is experiencing US-type levels of overcrowding. In fact, the only EU country where the prison population rate is falling is Romania.
Really excellent stuff. Get over there and read it 😉