England’s top judge, Lord Chief Justice Woolf, has just issued new sentencing guidelines for burglary. His advice, prompted partly by prison overcrowding, is that most ‘first time’ burglars (and even certain categories of repeat offender) should not be imprisoned except in the most extreme circumstances. As theories of deterrence go this is nuts. In particular, it goes against lessons learned in the US, a country where higher rates of incarceration help explain why the property crime rate is now lower than in the UK. Of course, there is also another explanation. As was noted in yesterday’s Daily Telegraph:
“American burglars are further deterred by the risk of being shot by the householder.”
And isn’t that great.