Since 1993 the population within prison is increasing leading to majority of prison overcrowding this meaning there is now a higher percentage of people in prison here in England than any other country in Western Europe (Howard League 2006). This is leading to re-offending as offenders are not able to receive individual rehabilitation because there are too many offenders to rehabilitate. As this becomes more of a problem in today’s society the government are coming up with new punishments which will help to reduce the overcrowding within the prisons. One of these new punishments is probation, this is a sentence which is been imposed by court and given to the offender either after the offender has served their sentence in prison or not at all.
Within this essay, the focus will be to explain if the probation service is either soft or a hard option whilst covering three concepts to see what extent this is a true representation of community penalties. The three concepts which will be critically analysed will be history of prisons, prison population and the media’s perception of probation. At the end of this essay it will hopefully conclude whether probation is either a soft or hard penal option.
The first concept which will be critically analysed will be the history of prisons and theories to why prison is a better punishment then probation service and how probation is soft compared to prisons. Prisons are seen as an institution where offenders are placed before and after being tried by court of a criminal offence which they have committed against either a member or the public or society itself for example terror attacks on buildings.
Prisons were first built around the 13th century however these were only used for vagrants and drunks and these prisons looked more like houses or correction units then large security wired prisons like today’s prisons. Offenders who committed more serious crimes such as murder, rape, burglary or other serious offences were sentenced to the death penalty. In the 18th century it was characterised as the era of the ‘bloody code’ even though there was a growing opposition to the death penalty for all those of the most serious crimes (Howard League 2009). However in 1850 it saw the change in which prisons were now being used to imprison individuals for serious crimes and not for summary offences and petty felonies which it was used for in the previous years (Newburn 2007).
The first prison to be built and completed was at Millbank in London in 1816 which held over 860 prisoners who were kept in separate cells however association with other prisoners were allowed...