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Free Speech: Should a criminal be punished or educated?

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James Emtage James Emtage | 12:55 UK time, Thursday, 29 March 2012


Woop woop that's the sound of... Free Speech? Yes, on next week's show we'll be talking all things crime-related. In honour of this we asked three young writers to answer this question:

Should a criminal be punished or educated?


Louise Daniels

Louise Daniels

For every action there's a consequence. Whether or not it's pleasant depends on the action. For instance, a child learning how to ride a bike, will end up hurting themselves. There isn't a magic wand to wave to ensure they go unscathed.

The rapist who ensured that a woman can never again walk on the same side of the road as a man, should be punished. Likewise, the fool who thought they had the right to take another's life, should be given an actual life sentence, not a measly fifteen years.

Figures show that nearly 50% of offenders released from prison reoffend within a year. This tells us that prisons are not acting as a deterrent against crime.

To conclude: should criminals be punished? Yes. Educated? Yes.

Criminals must be punished appropriately, educated about the consequences of their actions, and rehabilitated effectively. Now that's what I call a Criminal Justice System.


Robbie Wojciechowski

Robbie Wojciechowski

Criminality may very well be one of the greatest problems that faces our society, but it's not one that should have its resolution decided on instinct.

Punishment appeals to the non-thinker, to the person who thinks that if they're out of society's way then the criminal ceases to exist. It's a fickle outlook, and not one that provides the answer.

Think it through; put yourself in the wrong-doer's shoes. If for some reason, you make the same bad choices that lead you to sit in their situation, would you want to be devolved from society?

Wouldn't it make you want to lash out more viciously than you may have done before? Education and rehabilitation is the only answer to crime. A life is precious, don't waste it on ignorance.


Stephen Isaac-Wilson

Stephen Isaac-Wilson

To say every criminal should be punished is too black and white.

I would go with the line that a person's behaviour could be a factor of society. In many cases, a criminal should be educated as there is probably an underlining reason why the crime was committed.

Maybe the person is poor, has no food or has a trainers fetish? Obviously, there are some criminals that endanger the safety of others, but why can't all the rest just be rehabilitated?

Maybe it's just our fetish of crime and punishment.

So what do you think? Should a criminal be punished or educated? Watch the animation below outlining who’s in our prisons and what they’re in for, then tell us in the comments below.

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Episode two of Free Speech airs Wednesday 4th April at 10pm on BBC Three... to miss it would be a crime.

Louise, Robbie and Stephen are resident writers for the youth led magazine Live, as well as contributing to The Guardian, The Independent and Dazed and Confused.


  • Comment number 1.

    Obviously there are some who are just beyond rehabilitation, but everyone else in prison should spend their time almost in full-time education.

  • Comment number 2.

    Crime should = punishment, rehabilitation and education. Otherwise the rate of repeat offenders will forever be sky high.

    Though personally, I think this government gets trigger happy themselves when it comes to throwing criminals in jail - we probably do it more than anyone (except for perhaps America and China). There are other forms of punishment - from community service, to fines, and the list goes on. We should act and react accordingly to criminals - heavier sentences for heavier crimes of course, but I don't quite understand 7 months in jail for a person who's stolen a bottle of water from a shop... Let's get back to reality.

    I agree with what all the young writers have said here - let's please vigilance, but not ignorance when it comes to crime.

  • Comment number 3.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 4.

    The police are not doing their job these are the real criminals robbing the tax payer .
    We need a new police force and to get rid of the british monarchy they are all corrupt

  • Comment number 5.

    "our fetish for crime and punishment" co-sign

  • Comment number 6.

    I completely agree with Louise Daniels. Criminals should be punished and educated a he same time. How will they learn from their mistakes if they are not educated on the consequences of their acts. However, education shouldn't only be introduced after the crime is committed. Why don't we try educating people on criminal consequences. We should decrease the amount of criminals by educating supposed "criminals to be". So yes educate hem, but before they become criminals. If they commit the crime, then punishment is a must; yet again education will also be part of that process.

  • Comment number 7.

    Education should surely start before the crime is committed, its about putting together prevention methods to stop this happening in the first place.

    In the event that its is after, then the main problem for people that have committed crimes is that after release they have lost opportunities, so cannot find a job, get back into education etc , so education is key and not just in construction, im talking real opportunities. Now I am not saying this should apply to everyone, those young people who are in for petty crimes and first time offences, after they had done the crime .. what next?
    We need to ask young people these questions , those who have experience of it as well , surely they would be in a better position to advise. Well done Live Magazine team!

  • Comment number 8.

    i hate crime i should be punished and educatd

  • Comment number 9.

    Look at it anyway you like, its still a CLASS WAR, corrupt law makers, corrupt police and corrupt monarchy.

    Why do criminals wear suits its to make themselves look respectable.

    Hope that this will educate everyone.

  • Comment number 10.

    I totally agree with Louise. Criminals need education, rehabilitation AND punishment. All three must be there, in order for effectiveness to be maximised. You can not remove one, as you need all three.

  • Comment number 11.

    I agree with the point that was made about that life sentences should be longer than 15 years . It should be life for a life!

  • Comment number 12.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 13.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 14.

    No Disapline

  • Comment number 15.

    Hard Labour

  • Comment number 16.

    I agree with stephen- i think there is a crime and punishment fetish- after the riots the initial response from the govt was to criminalise all those involved. Crime is wrong but its not just an issue of law and order, society, communities, families and education are all just as important. If education fails in the first instance, we have to make sure that it succeeds when things have gone wrong.

  • Comment number 17.

    education or punishment? Our young are already being educated in crime by corrupt politicians, lawyers, police of all ranks, doctors, let alone bankers. They witness on a daily bases the above professionals getting away with robbery, fraud and even murder. What a smashing educational system we have for our young?

  • Comment number 18.

    bring back the death penalty to get rid of pedophiles and rapists

  • Comment number 19.

    prison is a learning camp for young affenders, they come out of prison after doing 3 moth full of fresh ideas and these 13/14 year old boys feeling like a big man

  • Comment number 20.

    I love hove the muggers pregramme ended with a thesys !. I was vialantly assaulted as well. We know that recovery, punishment, justice, compansation and all these are what people arround the victims are talking about.

    But honestly as a victims I need the offender to say "Sorry".

    Richerd closed the programme with that. But it shows what victims importance.

  • Comment number 21.

    I think the question we should all have a base line one is what is crime if we all were togeather on that maybe this mite work ?

  • Comment number 22.

    it would find pedophiles and get them banged up

  • Comment number 23.

    Its like when your a kid and the class gets held in at break because of one kid, its complete rubbish but on the other hand it could save lives and catch people e.g. paedophile, in my personal opinion i wouldn't mind people gin through my txt's i am never going to see the person who reads it.

  • Comment number 24.

    #YesDouglas The problem with the current thinking on crime and punishment is the assumption that the way to alter a criminal's behaviour is to treat them with kindness. This has been shown to be unworkable, nowadays criminals receive short sentences in relative comfort and have little to fear from the justice system. The real way to alter criminal behaviour is the state to coerce criminals with fear. Some don't believe that fear works as a preventative measure, I would say to them that they should observe what happens when criminals fall out with each other;they understand the coercive power of fear only too well. Longer sentences for anti-social and violent crime and more uncomfortable prisons is the way to reduce crime, not the useless softly-softly approach in use at the moment.

  • Comment number 25.

    I personally feel that criminals should have to go to a army boot camp and learn discipline and respect.

  • Comment number 26.

    sex education at a young age is good because kids find out at a young age and not to sleep around #Nicola

  • Comment number 27.

    chavs aren't all bad they have grown up in a riff area and have been influenced hens the meaning council house and violent

  • Comment number 28.

    Perhaps it should be a question of, should we educate criminals on why they are being punished? Regardless of who you are in this world, there are rules to follow and every action has a consequence. Breaking the law has a consequence based on your crime, so really educating criminals is to little to late. Prevention is better than cure, which is why i believe we should educate people whilst they are at school, so they are aware of the rules and consequences of the real world. Should they break the law, it should be made clear to them of how they have broken the law and what the consequence are for breaking the them. This is much how both myself and my brothers where punished as children. When we did something wrong, we were told why we were being punished and what the punishment would be. Educating criminals is giving them a shield to hide behind after they commit a crime, as they can claim ' i didn't know what i was doing' and that the consequence for not knowing, is simply a little bit of rehabilitation in prison. Deny it all you want, but down to its basic level this is how a criminal will look at it. As i said before, prevention is better than cure and surely it would be more cost effective to-do this is in the long run, than to make a last ditch attempt to re-rehabilitate those who the youth of today look up to and seem to be copying there every action.

  • Comment number 29.

    from what i have read from this topic it very filtered and lame because it really did not touch on the truth of things

    you all seam t think that prision is a walk in the park or somthing have have no real idear of being behind bars makes people become

    most of you think that a change in the law will do the trick you are so wrong

  • Comment number 30.

    Prison is not meant to be a walk in the park. It is is designed to make those responsible for breaking laws and negatively impacting on the life's of others in society, feel some kind of responsibility for their actions. Its cruel, but they themselves are responsible for their actions. Changing laws shapes the society we all live in and without changing them no progress can be made. If you have sympathy for those behind bars, then you should have a greater amount for the society they have effected. At the end of they day you can (some will) blame many factors for why people end up in prison, but at the end of they day you still have the overall basic knowledge to decide between right and wrong. Prison is designed to be hard, to reflect the individuals crime and the only way to prevent crime is to make tougher laws and modifying current ones to acts as a deterrent to deter people from making bad decisions in the future. With this and educating people on the difference between right and wrong from early on in life, im sure crime can become less of a common practice. Stop giving people a reason to resort to it, as you are just adding fuel to the fire and are ironically becoming a bigger part of the problem....

  • Comment number 31.

    i agree with the fact you do the crime now do the time. i also agree with the fact the person who has done this crime may have a bad background of family life. but on the other hand we have to think why is it they had to get to that point before it was too late. i agree they should be rehabilitated as that is the main goal for imprisonment aswell as punishment. but now prison has become like a holiday camp and is not seen as a deterrent anymore. so my opinion : yes good to have rehabilitation and education but how much will it take into affect when the person has been released ??

  • Comment number 32.

    The british police force are distrustful , lazy, greedy, selfish and jealous. They are only protecting the tyrant british monarchy And their double standards. The younger people learn this, the better.

  • Comment number 33.

    I see that my post about the US soldiers guarding the Afgan poppy fields ,whilst the government ship in the heroin has gone ? I should also mention that the Bilderberg group invented the Euro.

  • Comment number 34.

    Crime statistics are useful but I doubt if they are taking into account crimes that are undetected especially on the internet and they don't mention organised crime internationally

    In America they prefer to spend more money on private prisons that make profit from people being cut off welfare benefit money who have no alternative but to turn to petty crime.

    The English governments tend to copy the Americans by disqualify people from welfare benefit safety net money when you consider the politicians are out of touch regarding poverty. Poor education and Poor housing Is reserved for the working classes not for the privileged few


    The upper classes are scared of the scum coming into their neighbourhoods to disturb them fortunately they're not intelligent enough to create a class war.


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