Men, women and prison: A study in gender

A couple of weeks ago, an episode of Ed Miliband’s podcast, Reasons to be Cheerful, was devoted to penal policy and prison reform. It features a fascinating interview with Nils Öberg, director general of the Swedish prison and probation service who makes a string of important observations about the Nordic approach to imprisonment. In a nutshell, in Sweden prison is only ever used as a last resort, is focused upon rehabilitation, particularly addressing social, educational, psychological and addiction problems of prisoners. The Swedish reoffending rate is around 30% after three years post-release.  In the UK it is 46% after just one year, and that is despite Swedish prisons being disproportionately filled with the most damaged, violent and recidivist offenders in their system. [Read more…]

How BBC Question Time let down the victims of rape and the wrongly accused alike

Watching BBC Question Time last night was a depressing experience. Yes, watching BBC Question Time is always a depressing experience, but on this occasion more so than ever, as a significant portion of the show was given over to a question about rape prosecutions.

The context is the high-profile collapse of several rape & sexual offence trials amid apparently systematic failures by limbs of the justice system to properly collect, handle and disclose evidence.

“Given recent revelations about a string of innocent men being accused of rape and almost losing their liberty, is it time to name and shame false accusers?”

I will come on to why this question was profoundly and offensively ill-chosen, but the really dispiriting element to this was the widespread misunderstandings of the nature of sexual assault prosecutions and false allegations among the audience and – with a couple of notable exceptions – the panel, so it seems worthwhile to revisit a few of the problems with the myths and the discourse. [Read more…]