Why is there currently a problem in the UK of increasing prison populations?

The increase of the prison population in the UK

Currently in the UK the prison population in on the increase. This has been a steady fact for a number of years and currently shows little sign of decreasing.

What is the main reason why the prison population is increasing?

For many people when told that the prison population is increasing this would immediately mean that the rate of offending must also be on the increase. If more people are committing crimes then the natural progression would be that more people are having to go to prison. However, this is not necessarily the case as there are other factors which have their part to play in the rising prison population.

What other factors may have a part to play in the rising prison population in the UK?

The following factors may well have their part to play in the increasing prison population in the UK:

  • The media and its stance on crime

  • Political reasons

  • Sentencing reasons

  • Differences in the type of offending

The media and its stance on crime

Following some high profile cases in the early 90s where there was particular media outcry in relation to certain criminal offences the stance in the media towards punishment became more punitive. Rather than advocating more community sentences the media was to become far less tolerant of offenders demanding larger sentences. In society in the way in which we currently live the media has huge power and can even step into the notions of law making decisions as has clearly been the case here.

Political reasons

When new governments come into power one issue which is always up for debate is how they are going to tackle the problem of crime in our society. Often when a new government comes into power they will vow to be tough on crime which can see many offenders being provided with custodial sentences when before they may have been provided with more community based sentences.

Sentencing Reasons

Often a tougher line on crime to be handed down by the courts would be directly linked to an increase in offending but this is not necessarily the case. Often the courts may lose faith in certain community measures which could be used as an alternative to sentencing so will often take the option of a custodial sentence rather than a community sentence.

This means that the prison population is likely to increase due to individuals being handed a custodial sentence when before they would have been given a community sentence.

Differences in the type of offending

Certain levels of serious crime will often remain the same but often there are fluctuations in the nature of offending especially where drugs are concerned. For example offenders will often continue reoffending due to their drug habit which means that when they are continually placed in front of the court they will eventually get a custodial sentence as there seems to be no other option for the court to take.

Is this a problem that the prison population is steadily on the increase?

Many people will argue that prison is being used too readily and at the cost of the British tax payer where there could be other potential punishments handed down. However, others argue that prison is the only option when a country needs to tackle the problem of crime by being hard on it and handed down custodial sentences more readily.