Imprisonment and Unequal Societies


On Thinking Allowed today,
Nils Christie, Professor of Criminology at Oslo University startled me with a
simple fact. Talking about imprisonment he mentioned that, at 141 per 100,000
of population, the UK has the highest rate in Western Europe. This figure is
much higher than the rate in Scandinavian countries which is around 60 per
100,000. That wasn’t what startled me.
What startled me was the
comparison to the US which has almost 800 people in prison per 100,000. Not
only is this rate astonishing but so was the automatic connection Christie made
between the high prison population and the drive for economic success in the US.
It reminded me of the idea,
put forward by Richard Wilkinson in his book ‘Unhealthy Societies‘, that mental
illness is related to the gap between the rich and the poor. Those countries
which have the largest gaps tend to have the highest rates of mental illness.
In Wilkinson’s new book (reviewed in The Guardian) this thesis is extended to
include the same connection between unequal societies and higher crime rates.
Not only is the American Dream
more likely to put you in jail, it is more likely to drive you crazy.
About the author

Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD
is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from
University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about
scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book
“Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks.

Kayode Ojo
Kayode Emmanuel Ojo is the Co-Founder and Managing Director at SHEFFA Limited. He is presently studying Computer Science at the National Open University, Victoria Island, Lagos.