Prison Policy Research That's 50 Years out of Date; Perspective

The Birmingham Post (England), December 29, 2001 | Go to article overview

Prison Policy Research That's 50 Years out of Date; Perspective


Byline: David Wilson

I'm writing this column in Glasgow, having driven up to Scotland to spend Hogmanay with family and friends, and just minutes before going into BBC Scotland's studios to have a debate with the Police Federation's Fred Broughton about the Home Secretary's proposed reforms. I'm rather comforted that my views about these proposals became known -- at least to the researchers on You and Yours -- through this column, as opposed to the book that I wrote. So much for academia.

Indeed I'm beginning to wonder about academia's place in the debate about crime and punishment at all, after I noticed that the lead story in a national newspaper on Boxing Day concerned a ``new'' report by the Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR) criticizing theGovernment for concentrating too much attention on the violence committed by strangers, as opposed to the violence that takes place within the home.

The IPPR are indeed correct when it points out that the most common type of violence is between people known to each other in some way, and that, for example, some 70 per cent of violence committed against women is ``domestic''. They are also right to draw attention to the fact that of the paedophiles who are released from custody each year, 80 per cent had offended against their own children, or children that they knew.

Where have the IPPR been? If they had been reading any criminology for the past 50 years then this knowledge would have been commonplace.

Then again so should the Government have realized this, and perhaps all that this reveals is how complex the public policy agenda is -- no matter how often the Government likes to convince us that the basis for its policies is ``evidence led practice''.

Clearly if this was true their practice would concentrate not on violence committed by strangers, but violence committed in the home, and Lord Woolf would be less keen than he seems to have been this week to lock up ``dangerous'' offenders, who have in fact not committed any crimes at all. …

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