Workman strikes out

Kim Workman, Director of Rethinking Crime and Punishment, has told the Herald that “parole lessen[s] the chances of reoffending”, and that the three strikes law will increase recidivism. This is bollocks.

First, parole is still available on the first strike. This means that those who lose their parole privileges are those who have already been imprisoned once, been paroled and have then reoffended. This cohort have therefore demonstrated that they are not persuaded by parole to mend their ways.

Secondly, in terms of the impact of reoffending on society, Workman ignores the fact that recidivism is measured from the time of release. As such, a 50 per cent rate of reoffending following parole is much worse than a 50 per cent rate of reoffending following release two or three years later. Release at the end of the sentence means that society has benefitted from additional years of non-offending; this is not reflected in the statistics.

Another point that Workman ignores is that, in situations in which the three strikes law is not in force, there has to be good reason for prisoners not to be paroled – ie that the prisoner represents a risk to society because they have a high risk of reoffending. That being the case, a much higher reoffending rate among those not paroled is to be expected. Indeed, if that weren’t the case, it would be a sign that something was seriously wrong with the parole system.

Workman and others have criticised the three strikes legislation for impinging on judges’ disrection. This is clearly true, but it has been demonstrated that criminals consider both the likelihood and the severity of punishment in their decision on whether or not to offend. As such, making it clear to recidivist offenders that, if caught, they cannot hope to benefit from a lenient judge is all for the better, in my view.

It is a shame, given that Workman persists in ignoring quality research on the subject, that we can’t simply declare his three strikes spent.

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2 comments on “Workman strikes out

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