Here is a thought-experiment: imagine that you have asked some mischievous demon to conceive the most counter-productive way of dealing with crime. What fiendish scheme would this diabolic agent devise?

The demon could suggest a system where offenders are kept together with more serious and experienced criminals for months or years, and so can learn from them; where the offender is taken away from any gainful employment and social support or family network; where the offender is put in places where drugs and brutality are rife; where the infliction of a penalty can make the offender more, and not less, likely to re-offend; and where all this is done at extraordinary expense for the taxpayer.

A system, in other words, very much like the prison system we now have in England and Wales, as well as in many other jurisdictions. Read more