Britain’s prison population now stands at 82,000. We’re locking up more people than ever, and the number seems set to rise no matter who takes power at the next election. But is this increase a cause of falling crime rates, or an unhelpful response to the public’s fear of crime and desire to punish?
In his essay for Prospect this month, philosopher Jonathan Wolff addresses the motivations behind the statistics, and asks what the role of prison within a justice system can and should be. To understand what is going on, he suggests, we need to understand sentencing policy in its historical context, and to ask why it is that individuals choose to commit a crime in the first place. Any answers will be bound up with how people conceive of their relationship with society, and what underpins their fears and ambitions.
Let us know what you think here.