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Too many people jailed, says bishop

Too many criminals are sent to prison and punishing them in public instead could be more effective, the Anglican bishop for prisons has said.

The Bishop of Liverpool, the Rt Rev James Jones, said it was simply not enough to lock up criminals, adding that community payback schemes could act as a deterrent for others and help to reduce reoffending.

He told the Radio Times that it was time to question whether prisons should be "warehouses to store the incorrigible" or "greenhouses to restore the redeemable".

Bishop Jones, who went behind bars at three jails - Liverpool, High Down in Surrey, and Forest Bank in Greater Manchester - for the three-part BBC Radio 4 series The Bishop And The Prisoner, said too many offenders were being sent to prison.

"It punishes and it protects the rest of society from those who are locked up," he said.

"But that is not enough ... If you stop at anger, neither the victim nor society is well served. There's a percentage of prisoners that need to be in prison to protect the public, but a large number could be dealt with in community payback schemes.

"They lose their leisure time. They have to wear jackets to show they're doing community payback so people in the local community, who are fearful of crime, can see they're being punished.

"And it's a deterrent for other people who wouldn't like to be seen in that position."

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