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UK top judge questions efficacy of crowded prisons

[JURIST] Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers [BBC profile] expressed doubts about whether non-violent offenders are actually rehabilitated in prison during an interview [text] published Sunday in the British newspaper The Observer. In light of serious overpopulation of British prisons [Times report], the Lord Chief Justice questioned traditional prison sentences' ability to thwart recidivism: "Those interventions are rendered difficult or impossible if prisons are as full as now."

Phillips' comments followed a day spent undercover alongside criminals sentenced to community service. "The ideal that alternatives to custody is being soft is wrong," Phillips declared. "It's madness to spend £ 37,000 a year [on keeping someone in jail] when by spending much less on services in the community, you can do as good a job." Reuters has more.

Britain's prison overpopulation crisis has led to proposals for alternative sentencing, such as community service and "tag and release programs" [JURIST report]. The problem of prison overcrowding was highlighted in the US just last week, when California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger issued an emergency proclamation [JURIST report] to relieve overcrowding by allowing inmates to be transferred to other states.

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