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31 How. J. Crim. Just. 1 (1992)

handle is hein.journals/hjcj31 and id is 1 raw text is: 


The Howard journal Vol 31 No 1. Feb 92
ISSN 0265-5527



           The Responsible Prisoner:

           Rehabilitation Revisited1


                          ANDREW COYLE
                   Governor, Her Majesty's Prison, Brixton

Abstract: This paper was first delivered to a meeting of the Howard League in Scotland in
March 1991. The Scottish tradition of imprisonment has always betrayed a healthy scepticism
about the reforming value of imprisonment in itself, recognising that it is primarily a
punishment which consists of the deprivation of liberty. The rehabilitation of the prisoner is
likely to come about, if at all, as a result of personal change. Future recidivism is likely to be
affected, positively or negatively, by external features, such as accommodation, support and
employment. This realism has now been translated into a set of ideals. The challenge facing
bodies such as The Howard League is to ensure that the Prison Service translates these fine
ideals into fine deeds.

The  instances of imprisonment as a punishment for other offences than theft and
assault, are not numerous; and the long periods of imprisonment that take place in
England  are unknown in Scotland, where the period very rarely exceeds a year.
(House  of Commons  1826, Appendix 1, p. 46)
The  problem of Recidivism is small, diminishing, and not incapable of solution.
(Ruck  1951, p. 55)
The  Government's  penal policy is that the prison sentence should be imposed
upon  those, and only those for whom an alternative disposal is not appropriate.
(Scottish Prison Service 1990, foreword)

These  three quotations span a period of 160 years. They encapsulate in an
interesting fashion the journey taken by the Scottish prison system along a
road  which  to a large extent has only recently taken it back to its roots.
The  first quotation is taken from evidence given by an Advocate Depute to
a House   of Commons Select   Committee   on  Scottish prisons in 1826. It
came   from  an age  in which   there was  little belief in the concept of
imprisonment   as an end in itself, when both the numbers in prison and the
length of their stay were considerably smaller and  shorter than was  later
to be the case.
  The  second  quotation is from Sir Alexander Paterson, the doyen of 20th
century  English  penal  reformers, written  in the  age when   there was
supreme   confidence  in the value  of the prison  system  as a reforming
agency  and  in the rehabilitative value of imprisonment.
   The final quotation is an extract from the foreword written in 1990  by
the  Secretary  of State for  Scotland  to the  document   Opportunity and
Responsibility. It underlines a  return  to  the earlier philosophy   that

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