Sorry if you thought this was about finances as its about sentences, and I don’t mean written ones.
Although most of my sentences were not exactly short, or overly long, my experience of prison still involved the revolving doors of crisis and crime. To a point where I was happier and more content in prison than I was at liberty, taking liberties.
I do, however, advocate for an end to short-term sentences. By short-term, I mean anything less than 2 years, and for several reasons. One of my main reasons is prison overcrowding. Having said that, it isn’t people on short-term sentences as to why our prisons are overcrowded, not directly that is. The main reason our prisons are overcrowded is because sentence lengths are getting longer, and people receiving longer sentences are getting younger.
However, like me, things didn’t start out that way for most people in prison serving long sentences. My first custodial sentence, in 1985 when I was fifteen, was for only 4 months, my next was 9 months and I was still a teenager, which was also the last time a sentence began with months; other than a few days here and there for non-payment of fines. It was always the cheaper option.
The journey into prison is also something I shared with most people in prison. I was released in June 2017, also in 2017 the Institute of Public Policy estimated that 54,164 out of the 85,975 people in prison had been excluded from school.
The school to prison pipeline was not a journey I shared with some; I shared it with most. Once in the school to prison pipeline it can take many years to make it back out. It took me most of my teenage and adult years to climb back out again.
If we really want to reduce reoffending and reduce overcrowding, then it isn’t the prison environment we should be focusing on. Prison deals with the problems it doesn’t deal with the issues. The issues, and as the stats suggest, begin in the education system, at school.
In 2013, the university of Edinburgh carried research into prison overcrowding in Scotland. They concluded to reduce overcrowding in prisons is to deal with school exclusions. (https://www.ed.ac.uk/news/2013/exclusionprison-280213)
In October 2020, the BBC reported on Maureen McKenna, Glasgow’s director of education, where Maureen said “Schools were excluding people again and again. I just didn’t think they were reflecting enough about the context of the young person, where they had come from. The report also discussed how over the previous ten years, school exclusions in Glasgow were reduced by eighty-eight percent and during the same timeframe, youth crime dropped by fifty percent. (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-58757188)
The evidence is plain to see. School exclusions lead to prison and with prison itself being criminogenic prison leads to more prison, especially without intervention. The earlier the better because once someone is in the school to prison pipeline it is like closing the stable door once the horse has bolted.