Statistics be damned, though. Make every statistic a victim and things become more significant. Yip, there's a massive financial cost (each prisoner costs more than $90,000 per year), but the social cost is immeasurable. We need to move beyond ideas of punishing criminals and think about future victims. If what we are doing is creating more victims then it clearly isn't a success.
I've been asked many times what might work, and while much of my fieldwork in other areas has given me some anecdotal answers, it's only recently that I've undertaken research to prove them.
One of those projects evaluated a reintegration strategy employed by Pathway Trust, and this showed some promising results in employing wrap-around service provision (I will write specifically about that soon). Another project highlighted the very simple and astounding gaps in rehabilitation efforts (I will write about this in detail when we're done, too).
Perhaps my most important study, though, is just beginning. A team from Interdependent Research Solutions and Zavest are finding and interviewing people who were imprisoned at younger than 20 who have not been re-convicted for at least five years. We are hoping to learn what worked for them so it can be employed on others. If it doesn't sound exciting, I assure you It is.
Only when the public (read voters) demand a more evidence led approach will we get it. And for this reason I can only implore this: reject those politicians who offer simple solutions to obviously complex phenomena. We need to discard the idea of being tough on crime and replace it with being smart on crime.
Some people will invariably misconstrue my words, so let me be clear: in no way does that mean we need to go ‘soft’. For example, I firmly believe in protecting the community through preventative detention (indeterminate sentences), but statistically those cases are small. I also believe that prison is an important tool of punishment (we do, after all, need our pound of flesh). There is absolutely no doubt, however, that we need to find a way of reducing crime and not just punishing it.
Given we are all potential victims, it’s in our interests to find a better way of tackling crime. Politicians please take note.