Our society has not the least notion of quite how much of a sledgehammer blow a prison sentence is. The fact that the prison population continues to grow merely emphasises how ignorant we generally are of the costs incurred, both budgetary and social.

Imprisonment has the effect, intended or not, of smashing family arrangements and obliterating other social support networks among those already more socially impoverished than most. Miscarriages of justice rub extra salt into this, one of society's more grievous wounds.

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