Professor Henry Yeomans submits written evidence to UK Parliament Justice Committee

The submission was based on Professor Henry Yeomans and Dr Thomas Guiney's recent article 'Explaining Penal Momentum'.

Professor Henry Yeomans and Dr Thomas Guiney (University of Nottingham) have submitted written evidence to the UK Parliament Justice Committee's inquiry into Future Prison Population and Estate Capacity. The submission was based on their recent article 'Explaining Penal Momentum', published in the Howard Journal of Crime and Justice. It focused on the Ministry of Justice's process of prison population forecasting, exploring how it has helped to sustain the growth of the prison population in England and Wales and fuel calls for the building of more prison places.

Yeomans and Guiney argue that there is a critical need for scrutiny of prison population forecasting and the supplementary use of additional means of preparing for the future, such as scenario planning. They also call for further research on historical and international instances in which governments have successfully managed to reduce prison populations. These actions would help to bring the problem of rising prison population under control.

Prison population forecasts attract very little comment in academic research, yet they have been an important engine of prison population growth in England and Wales.

They often function as self-fulfilling prophecies, taking a 'business as usual' approach that assumes the future will look a lot like the present.

In doing so, they negate the possibility of serious penal change and undermine the case for a rethink of why and how we punish offenders, despite the fact that this is desperately needed in England and Wales.

Professor Henry Yeomans

Professor Yeomans is a historical criminologist. His research is interdisciplinary, operating at the intersection of criminology, history, sociology, and law. He is currently writing up the findings from a project on illicit markets in alcohol in the ‘long nineteenth century’, which was funded by the Leverhulme Trust.