The Ministry of Justice conducts its own assessments of public attitudes to prison through perceptual questions contained in the British Crime Survey (BCS).
Raising public confidence in the criminal justice system (CJS) is one of the Government’s key public service agreement (PSA) targets, and is measured through responses given to the BCS. The PSA2 indicator (year ending March 2003 to March 2008) was based on the question
“How confident are you that the criminal justice system is effective in bringing offenders who commit crime to justice?”.
Research by Smith (2007) suggested that people’s confidence varied according to which CJS agency they were considering. A copy of the research can be found on the Ministry of Justice website;
As part of the process of measuring the new ‘Justice for All’ public service agreement PSA 24, a new set of questions were developed to measure public perceptions of the ‘fairness’ and ‘effectiveness’ of the criminal justice system (CJS). These questions are contained in the British Crime Survey, and respondents are asked about their confidence in each of the individual agencies that comprise the CJS. Two of these questions relate to prisons:
“How confident are you that Prisons are effective at punishing offenders who have been convicted of a crime?”
“How confident are you that Prisons are effective at rehabilitating offenders who have been convicted of a crime?”
In addition, a set of questions relating to public perceptions about ‘Community payback’ have been developed for inclusion in the British Crime Survey for 2009-10.