Prison Space "Wasted" on the Non-Violent, Claims Campaign

London, United Kingdom, September 25, 2012 --( The non-profit organization for victims of violent crime,, has launched a campaign to call for a “radical redefinition of the purpose of the prison system,” having published recent figures of violent crime and prison populations on its website.

The website claims that as many as 43,000 prison spaces are taken by non-violent offenders, while 700,000 violent offenders go “unpunished” every year, often due to a lack of prison space. The organization has therefore initiated a national petition to define the sole purpose of prison as “public protection,” and to reserve valuable prison space for violent offenders requiring social segregation “entirely in the interests of public safety.” The organization cites the figures as evidence that we are in a present situation which requires a decisive, if temporary, remedy. It furthermore argues that the purposes which the prison system are presently intended to serve are “disjointed, ambiguous and contradictory,” and it does not work as a result. lists the four “competing” purposes of incarceration as: a) punishment; b) rehabilitation; c) deterrence; and d) segregation; it claims that only the fourth of these works 100% of the time, if for a limited period.

The organization has long bemoaned the fact that rehabilitation is the mooted priority of successive governments, claiming that as many as 80% of violent offenders reoffend within two years. Likewise, it also questions that if prison is an effective deterrent, why are populations at an all-time high? A spokesman for the organization said: “The deterrent aspect is not aimed at the violent – we appear to have given up on them.

“Successive governments-elect consistently use violent crime as a campaign tool, yet just in this past month we have seen the homophobic killers of Ian Baynham jailed for as little as 6 years, while a conman who carried out a VAT scam gets 17 years (Dilawar Ravjani). This is incredible, and infuriating; it just shows that this country’s laws prioritize preventing property crime over violent crime.” believes the “inconsistency and ambiguity” in sentencing can be eradicated with one severe, over-riding policy – to redefine the purpose of prison – and it is leading the campaign to do just that.

Clearly no such campaign could be undertaken without a mention of the catalogue of high-profile cases of violent offenders released early under Gordon Brown’s government, to reoffend, and sometimes kill. At the time’s founder and chairman Matt McAvoy was working in the probation services, and he says it is exactly this issue which compelled him to form the organization; Mr. McAvoy’s job at the time was to compile parole reports. “We were under pressure to release violent prisoners because of overcrowding – we all knew it. Morale was terrible.”

Whilst admits things are looking up under the new government, as sentencing policy does seem to be stricter across the board, it voices concerns that overcrowding remains an issue, and remains sceptical that violent crime will ever top the agenda of the British criminal justice system. “Prisons are only effective in protecting the public from a violent person – full stop,” it says. “Make it exclusively so, and decide what to do with the rest separately.

The organization would love to hear your views and suggestions for non-violent sentencing policy, but first and foremost wants your signatures. To view the petition “Campaign to propose the exclusive purpose of prisons is public protection,” please visit:

For further information about or its chairman Matt McAvoy, or to arrange an interview with Matt, please visit, or email
Matt McAvoy