Obviously Gaol works in so far as an offender is off the streets for the duration of the sentence. That is why dramatically increasing incarceration drops crime rates in the short term. This is the approach the US takes and we are heading to. Incarcerating about a third of the cohort from problem groups (white trash and black inner-city boys) during their peak offending years 17-28 keeps that cohort off the streets. It works, but at enormous cost to the individuals AND to the state, who has to spend £40,000 a year keeping them inside. Prison works, but it's not ideal, and it would be far better to address the underlying social problems which lead to crime.
Jim Brown's On Probation Blog is worth reading to leaven the Daily Mail-tastic tone of much of the Blogosphere's crime reportage.
I cannot overstate the dramatic effect a girlfriend can sometimes have on a young man's offending pattern. She often replaces the control previously exercised by mum and says 'you're not going out'I wonder how much of our feral underclass' bad behaviour is made worse by the disgusting, perverse incentives in the welfare state which force couples to live apart or lose benefits especially in the event one or other of them get a job? Until this changes, we will continue to bear the burden of an incarceration rate approaching that of the USA.
Iain Duncan Smith's reforms may cost £3bn to pay more in-work benefits to the low-paid, whilst cutting out of work benefits to the feckless, but how much will they save?