UK Prison Sentences, Are They Too Lenient?


Today Chris Huhne and his ex wife were sentenced to 8 months in prison for perverting the course of justice. Apart from the fact that the average annual cost per prisoner = £40,000, meaning that 2 x 8 month sentences = £52,320.00 plus £148,000 to prosecute, there is a very real possibility that both of them could be released after just half that sentence.

As many of you will know I am studying law, however even after two years this being released after half of your sentence for ‘good behaviour’ just seems backwards to me. If you are given an eight month sentence, that should mean eight months. If you are good then you are released after the time of your sentence, and if you are bad you should get extra time.

Being good in prison should not be used as a reward for reducing a sentence of a crime, it should be expected!

A few months ago there was a program on TV called ‘Inside: Russia’s Toughest Prisons‘ (available to watch on Vimeo), and things are significantly different to that in the UK. For a start most of them are required to work, not for payment, but to give something back to the society they have taken from. They address the guards as “sir” or “miss”, and they don’t have any form of entertainment within their cells.

I know that some reading this will think this is inhumane, but when you look at the statistics and hear what people who have been in a Russian prison have said, they don’t want to go back, why, because its not a nice place to be.

The chances are, if you asked a prisoner in the UK if they would be happy to serve half their sentence but a in Russian prison they would turn down the offer as they know that compared to other countries life in prison is easy going.

Bringing this back to Chris Huhne, its probably not feasible to keep him or other criminals in prison for their full sentence for the simple reason that it costs so much. However the danger of letting people out or giving them lenient sentences (or reducing them after half the time served) is that the public lose faith in the judiciary as a whole, especially with the majority of the public are already being of the mind that ‘life should mean life’.

This graph has been taken from the UK Justice website. Proof that longer sentence's prevent reoffending.

This graph has been taken from the UK Justice website. Proof that longer sentence’s prevent reoffending.