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READING PASSAGE 1

Read the text on the next page and answer Questions 1-13.

Prison: The Solution or the Problem?

In the Netherlands and parts of the USA such as Johnson County, a move towards rehabilitation of offenders and decreasing crime has seen a reduction in incarceration rates. Bucking this trend, the UK's prison population has increased by an average rate of 3.6% per year since 1993. As the situation currently stands, England's and Wales' incarceration rate is 148 per 100,000 compared to 98 in France, 82 in the Netherlands and 79 in Germany. Without a shadow of a doubt, out of all European countries, the UK has adopted the most hardline approach to offenders.

The trend towards imposing prison sentences on offenders in the UK is made to seem all the more harsh since the Dutch Justice Ministry is actively in the process of systematically closing down prisons. In the period between 2010-2015, 28 prisons were closed in total. If anything, the Dutch reform of the prison system has been accelerating at a phenomenal pace, with 19 of the prisons being shut down in 2014 alone.

As would be expected, closures of prisons in the Netherlands have led to a drop in the numbers of incarcerated offenders. This is also largely due to the fact that those convicted are choosing electronic tagging instead of incarceration. However, there is more to these statistics than meets the eye. Defying all expectations of the pro-incarceration lobbyists, crime rates in the Netherlands are also actually decreasing in direct proportion to the closure of prisons.

With such statistics laid bare for all to see, many are now beginning to question the validity of incarceration as a method of reforming offenders. All the more so since the average prison place costs the taxpayer £37,648 per year - a hefty sum for a service that fails to deliver, especially since there are vastly cheaper and more effective methods to deal with offenders. Allowing offenders to be tagged electronically rather than be incarcerated would save around £35 million per year for every 1000 convicted offenders. Serving a probation or community service order would also be 12 times less costly than the average prison placement for an offender.

More tellingly, a decreased incidence of relapse into criminal behaviour when offenders receive a community sentence, rather than a custodial one, has been revealed in re-offending statistics issued by the UK Ministry of Justice. There is definitely an argument that serving a prison term tends to create rather than alleviate the problem of crime. As a Conservative white paper concluded in 1990, 'We know that prison is an expensive way of making bad people worse.' Interestingly, the report also argued that there should be a range of community-based sentences which would be cheaper and more effective alternatives to prison.

Quite apart from the cost and relative ineffectiveness of incarceration is the short-sightedness of imposing a custodial sentence in the first place. A punitive system of incarceration presupposes that the prisoner needs to be punished for bad behaviour. Since the prisoner is considered answerable for their behaviour, it is believed that they are also completely responsible for their actions. Such an approach overlooks social and economic factors that can play an integral role in the incidence of crime. Such an oversight only serves to perpetuate crime and punish offenders who need help rather than a penal sentence.

It would do no harm for the UK to look to the Netherlands for an example in reducing crime through addressing social problems as a key to reducing incarceration. In the Netherlands, the focus is on deterring crime by investing in social services rather than seeking purely to punish the offender. In addition, those who do offend are helped with rehabilitation programmes.

Overlooking the social circumstances of the offender can also be detrimental to children's welfare, especially if a mother is convicted and given a custodial sentence. Often childcare arrangements are not in place when custodial sentences are handed down to mothers caring for children. In fact, research suggests that more than half of the women who go to court are not expecting a custodial sentence, leading to provisions made for the children being haphazard at best. The number of children who fall foul of the custodial system in this way totals a staggering 17,000 per year. Worse still, figures show that adult children of imprisoned mothers are more likely to be convicted of a crime than adult children of imprisoned fathers. Viewing the offender and their crime in isolation and disregarding all other social and environmental factors is therefore mistaken, if not downright morally reprehensible.

All evidence would seem to point to a much needed shake-up of the English penal system. As things stand, there are too many losers and no identifiable winners. It was Dostoevsky who said: 'The degree of civilisation in a society is revealed by entering its prisons.' Maybe we would do better to go one step further and amend his quotation to 'The degree of civilisation in a society is revealed by not having prisons and instead by addressing social issues in society itself.'

Section 1: Questions 1-13

Questions 1-7

Complete the sentences below.

Choose NO MORE THAN THREE WORDS from the passage for each answer.

A decrease in crime in the Netherlands and parts of the US is attributable more to the  1 than to their incarceration.

Closure of prisons in the Netherlands 2 at an unprecedented rate over recent years.

Against 3 the Netherlands are seeing a drop in crime along with the closure of prisons.

Since statistics do not support the argument for incarceration this has made many  4 of such a practice.

In fact, incarceration may serve to fuel rather 5 crime, thereby defeating the purpose of such a punishment.

In recognition of the fact that custodial sentences achieve little, less costly and  6 were put forward by the Conservatives in 1990.

Crime is not only down to individual behaviour but is also a result of 7 influences.

    Questions 8-13

    Section 1
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