Prison is a waste of money, says Bradford probation chief

First published in Bradford Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Photograph of the Author by , Bradford Chief Reporter

The enormous growth of Britain’s prison population has been branded “crazy” by a former probation officer who spent 14 years working in Bradford.

Rob Voakes has retired as head of the Wakefield Probation Service after 35 years in probation work.

He said that since he started in 1976, England’s prison population had risen from 45,000 to an estimated 90,000 within the next couple of years.

Mr Voakes, who lives in Shipley and retired last month, blamed sentencing frameworks which meant that more offenders were handed down heavier sentences that would have attracted lighter penalties two decades ago.

“It costs £1,200 a week to put someone in prison and a fraction of that to have them in the community,” he said.

“We have the largest prison population in Europe and have a relatively law-abiding society but a massive prison population.

“I think probation has got better at doing its job, and is more effective in changing behaviour to deal with ex-offenders, but the prison population has doubled in my career which is crazy.

“It is a waste of human resources sticking people in prison and largely expensive and has a long term damaging impact on society.

“It makes people more alienated and more criminal.

“I hope there are some changes in the next couple of years.

“We should deal with non-violent less dangerous offenders in the community rather than putting them in prison.”

Mr Voakes did say that during his career Bradford led the way in creating joint working with Probation and the Police on how to deal with violent high risk offenders including those who commit rape and murders.

“That way of working is now the bread and butter of every Probation Service across the country,” he said.

A Ministry of Justice spokesman admitted that managing the increase in the prison population was “challenging” but there were enough places for those being sent to custody.

“We have also been continually developing contingencies to manage the additional population, including the opening of two new prisons,” said the spokesman.

“But the Government is also clear that, while reoffending is falling and the overwhelming majority of criminals do not go on to commit further crimes, levels of reoffending are still too high. We're determined to break this cycle and address the root causes of this behaviour.

“That is why we making our jails places of hard work, getting criminals off drugs and alcohol and toughening community sentences so they are robust and credible punishments – as well as making offenders pay back to victims and communities.”

Comments (13)

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2:52pm Mon 9 Apr 12

Steve30d says...

When a criminal isn't in jail, and continues committing crime, how much does it cost per week in terms of crime detection/economic loss?
When a criminal isn't in jail, and continues committing crime, how much does it cost per week in terms of crime detection/economic loss? Steve30d
  • Score: 0

3:16pm Mon 9 Apr 12

Albion. says...

Steve30d wrote:
When a criminal isn't in jail, and continues committing crime, how much does it cost per week in terms of crime detection/economic loss?
Exactly! Prison only works when they are in there.
[quote][p][bold]Steve30d[/bold] wrote: When a criminal isn't in jail, and continues committing crime, how much does it cost per week in terms of crime detection/economic loss?[/p][/quote]Exactly! Prison only works when they are in there. Albion.
  • Score: 0

4:32pm Mon 9 Apr 12

Patrick Bateman says...

What they ^^ said!
What they ^^ said! Patrick Bateman
  • Score: 0

4:37pm Mon 9 Apr 12

mad matt says...

It seems to me that in many cases people who most definitely should be sent to prison get off with a slap on the wrist, whilst some petty first offenders get sent down. Would it be too much to ask the very well paid judges to do their job properly and sort the mess out.
It seems to me that in many cases people who most definitely should be sent to prison get off with a slap on the wrist, whilst some petty first offenders get sent down. Would it be too much to ask the very well paid judges to do their job properly and sort the mess out. mad matt
  • Score: 0

4:52pm Mon 9 Apr 12

bobbyo says...

mad matt wrote:
It seems to me that in many cases people who most definitely should be sent to prison get off with a slap on the wrist, whilst some petty first offenders get sent down. Would it be too much to ask the very well paid judges to do their job properly and sort the mess out.
too true, prisons are like holiday camps, hang em,
[quote][p][bold]mad matt[/bold] wrote: It seems to me that in many cases people who most definitely should be sent to prison get off with a slap on the wrist, whilst some petty first offenders get sent down. Would it be too much to ask the very well paid judges to do their job properly and sort the mess out.[/p][/quote]too true, prisons are like holiday camps, hang em, bobbyo
  • Score: 0

5:52pm Mon 9 Apr 12

Prisoner Cell Block A says...

I'd suggest that probation DOESN'T work as there are numerous reoffenders. Do away with probation, build bigger prisons and spend less on prisoner comfort. Plus make them earn their keep. Sort recycling and let the prison service charge per tonne and reinject the cash raised to reduce the cost per prisoner. Also, chain ganged landscape projects and community projects. Make em work for 12 hours per day. The prisons would be less filled then if the cushy number now was switched to hard graft and reduced rations. Too bloody soft in my opinion.
I'd suggest that probation DOESN'T work as there are numerous reoffenders. Do away with probation, build bigger prisons and spend less on prisoner comfort. Plus make them earn their keep. Sort recycling and let the prison service charge per tonne and reinject the cash raised to reduce the cost per prisoner. Also, chain ganged landscape projects and community projects. Make em work for 12 hours per day. The prisons would be less filled then if the cushy number now was switched to hard graft and reduced rations. Too bloody soft in my opinion. Prisoner Cell Block A
  • Score: 0

8:28pm Mon 9 Apr 12

Saltaire Bantam says...

It doesn't cost £1200 per week to send someone to prison in Thailand. They should make the prisons less luxurious (Sky TV etc) and follow Thailands example. Then we save taxpayers money, we can lock more criminals away and it will act as a deterrent to stop people committing crimes in the first place.
It doesn't cost £1200 per week to send someone to prison in Thailand. They should make the prisons less luxurious (Sky TV etc) and follow Thailands example. Then we save taxpayers money, we can lock more criminals away and it will act as a deterrent to stop people committing crimes in the first place. Saltaire Bantam
  • Score: 0

9:41pm Mon 9 Apr 12

Mik_e says...

Prisoner Cell Block A wrote:
I'd suggest that probation DOESN'T work as there are numerous reoffenders. Do away with probation, build bigger prisons and spend less on prisoner comfort. Plus make them earn their keep. Sort recycling and let the prison service charge per tonne and reinject the cash raised to reduce the cost per prisoner. Also, chain ganged landscape projects and community projects. Make em work for 12 hours per day. The prisons would be less filled then if the cushy number now was switched to hard graft and reduced rations. Too bloody soft in my opinion.
Agreed !
[quote][p][bold]Prisoner Cell Block A[/bold] wrote: I'd suggest that probation DOESN'T work as there are numerous reoffenders. Do away with probation, build bigger prisons and spend less on prisoner comfort. Plus make them earn their keep. Sort recycling and let the prison service charge per tonne and reinject the cash raised to reduce the cost per prisoner. Also, chain ganged landscape projects and community projects. Make em work for 12 hours per day. The prisons would be less filled then if the cushy number now was switched to hard graft and reduced rations. Too bloody soft in my opinion.[/p][/quote]Agreed ! Mik_e
  • Score: 0

9:25am Tue 10 Apr 12

thatsnotmyname says...

Lets just store them like in minority report.
Lets just store them like in minority report. thatsnotmyname
  • Score: 0

10:32am Tue 10 Apr 12

Z.Raja says...

For many peoples the jail standard is far more luxuorious than their normal living standard...It is a punishment to the tax payers. The real punishment would be to put these peoples on work.
For many peoples the jail standard is far more luxuorious than their normal living standard...It is a punishment to the tax payers. The real punishment would be to put these peoples on work. Z.Raja
  • Score: 0

12:43am Wed 11 Apr 12

RollandSmoke says...

As most offenders are in prison due to mental health issues or drugs problems I wonder if we could have the figures of how much the money invested in treatment for those medical issues has increased since 1976? How many new laws have been passed? I can't imagine that anyone is profiting at the taxpayers expense from keeping prison populations so high, can you? What was the unemployment rate in 1976? How did average wages compare to todays in real terms?
Has our thirst for punishment been directed at people who would once have been given our help and compasion?
Cue the vitriolic ranting.
As most offenders are in prison due to mental health issues or drugs problems I wonder if we could have the figures of how much the money invested in treatment for those medical issues has increased since 1976? How many new laws have been passed? I can't imagine that anyone is profiting at the taxpayers expense from keeping prison populations so high, can you? What was the unemployment rate in 1976? How did average wages compare to todays in real terms? Has our thirst for punishment been directed at people who would once have been given our help and compasion? Cue the vitriolic ranting. RollandSmoke
  • Score: 0

6:31am Wed 11 Apr 12

Albion. says...

RollandSmoke wrote:
As most offenders are in prison due to mental health issues or drugs problems I wonder if we could have the figures of how much the money invested in treatment for those medical issues has increased since 1976? How many new laws have been passed? I can't imagine that anyone is profiting at the taxpayers expense from keeping prison populations so high, can you? What was the unemployment rate in 1976? How did average wages compare to todays in real terms?
Has our thirst for punishment been directed at people who would once have been given our help and compasion?
Cue the vitriolic ranting.
As I don't commit crimes I don't see why anyone else should get away with doing so, there is too much analysis, courts shouldn't want to know why, just yes or no! build more prisons if necessary and lengthen sentences.
[quote][p][bold]RollandSmoke[/bold] wrote: As most offenders are in prison due to mental health issues or drugs problems I wonder if we could have the figures of how much the money invested in treatment for those medical issues has increased since 1976? How many new laws have been passed? I can't imagine that anyone is profiting at the taxpayers expense from keeping prison populations so high, can you? What was the unemployment rate in 1976? How did average wages compare to todays in real terms? Has our thirst for punishment been directed at people who would once have been given our help and compasion? Cue the vitriolic ranting.[/p][/quote]As I don't commit crimes I don't see why anyone else should get away with doing so, there is too much analysis, courts shouldn't want to know why, just yes or no! build more prisons if necessary and lengthen sentences. Albion.
  • Score: 0

8:37am Fri 13 Apr 12

BabyDave says...

I think I will go to prison for a rest.
I think I will go to prison for a rest. BabyDave
  • Score: 0

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