Pupils put prisons under the spotlight

Pupils with  Professor Loraine Gelsthorpe
Pupils with Professor Loraine Gelsthorpe

A leading criminologist has put prisons under the spotlight in the first of a series of enrichment lectures at Wisbech Grammar School.

Professor Loraine Gelsthorpe, professor of criminology at Cambridge University, posed the question, ‘Do we need prisons?’ before a 40-strong audience of senior students, staff and parents.

In the first of a series of lectures designed to complement the work being done in the sixth form in helping students prepare for university entrance, the professor explored the range of functions of prison in society and whether the aim of incarceration is simply to contain or to rehabilitate offenders and steer them into leading a good life.

Comparing the proportion of custodial sentences in various European countries, she revealed that England has one of the highest lock-up rates.

Professor Gelsthorpe also examined the financial costs of imprisonment and suggested that other, less expensive punishments, such as community service orders, were a more effective way of cutting re-offending rates.

Deputy head of sixth form Mrs Jane Missin, who is organizing the series of lectures, said: “The talk was well received by the audience and Professor Gelsthorpe was impressed by the students’ searching questions.”