Major-Prépa te propose un sujet blanc corrigé sur le système carcéral britannique pour t’entraîner à l’épreuve d’anglais !
Le sujet traitant du système carcéral
Britain’s prisons are becoming ever more like the failed US system
From numbers behind bars to drugs, mental health and regressive legislation, our prisons are in a shameful state.
Just around the corner from where the Krays used to hold sway in east London’s Brick Lane there is an establishment called Alcotraz. Described as “London’s first immersive theatrical cocktail bar”, Alcotraz allows you to dress up in a prison uniform, get locked up in a cell, have a cocktail or two, and get your photo taken. So Britain is channelling – in the cause of entertainment – a famous prison in the United States. But look closely and you’ll see that we are also mirroring that country’s relentlessly unforgiving and counterproductive penal policy.
Earlier this year, the prime minister joked that Britain was now “probably the Saudi Arabia of penal policy, under our wonderful home secretary”. In October, the Prison Reform Trust published a report which showed that there had been a “dramatic” increase in the number of people serving long prison sentences, with far more people now serving very lengthy terms. Nearly 11,000 people in prison in England and Wales will spend at least 10 years in custody. More than two-thirds of them are serving indeterminate sentences and do not know when – or if – they will be released.
Prison numbers will also inevitably increase if the police, crime, sentencing and courts bill becomes law. The bill creates new offences that will essentially criminalise the lifestyles of Gypsies and Travellers and bump up the overall prison population with increased sentences for protesters. The new nationality and borders bill means that those arriving in Britain illegally could now be jailed for up to four years.
In addition, a growing number of people on parole are being recalled to prison on the basis of dubious information as the probation service stumbles to recover from the then justice secretary Chris Grayling’s disastrous decision to privatise parts of it in 2014. On 21 October, Kevin Lane, one of those wrongly recalled and only recently released from prison, held a rally in front of the House of Commons to draw attention to this scandal. “The landings are full of people who should be on parole but are back in prison,” he said.
The whole criminal justice system is in a chaotic state, partly – but far from entirely – because of Covid-19. Of the 320 magistrates courts that existed in England and Wales in 2010, 164 have been sold off to developers for a total of £223m and turned into hotels and apartments. In Scotland, 17 sheriff and justice of the peace courts were sold off or closed in the past decade. All of which makes it harder for lawyers, members of the public – and reporters – to attend courts and see what sort of sentences are being handed down.
September’s justice committee report suggested that as many as 70% of prisoners in England and Wales may have mental health issues. During Covid lockdowns many of us talked of being “stir-crazy”. For prisoners, often confined to their cells for 23 hours a day and heavily restricted from learning new skills or studying because of staff shortages, being driven crazy is now a daily reality. There is also a drugs epidemic inside, with “spice” – with all its wild and dangerous side-effects – widely available.
In Scotland, which at least has a government more conscious of the problems of drug-related crime, the prison population is also surging. The number of those behind bars has risen sharply to an annual average of around 8,200 in 2019-2020. According to the Howard League Scotland, around a quarter of those inside are awaiting trial and have not yet been convicted. Maybe the owners of Alcotraz will not be able to resist opening something called Bar Linnie in Glasgow for anyone else anxious for that “epic yet intimate” cocktail experience.
Britain currently leads its western European neighbours in terms of inmates per head of population. England and Wales jail 138 of their population per 100,000; Scotland 147. Compare that with 76 in Germany and 59 in the Netherlands and Norway. Even Spain (123), Italy (101) and France (105) lag behind us. Maybe not quite “world-beaters” yet but at least we can defeat those pesky Europeans at something.
But where – as many have asked about the response to the recent report on the government’s early failings over Covid-19 – is the anger? In 1910, a young home secretary, Winston Churchill, the same one our current prime minister bases himself upon, said that “the mood and temper of the public in regard to the treatment of crime and criminals is one of the most unfailing tests of the civilisation of any country”. It’s a test this country is now shamefully failing.
Répondez en ANGLAIS aux questions suivantes (250 mots environ par question) :
1 – Why does the author say that the United Kingdom mirrors the American carceral system?
Answer the question in your own words.
2 – What to you think about the health of carceral systems in the English-speaking world?
Illustrate your answer with relevant examples from the English-speaking world.
Analyse de la question 1
Pour répondre à la première question, il est attendu de toi que tu reformules et réorganises les propos de l’auteur afin d’avoir un point de vue synthétique.
Au brouillon, tu remarques que :
- l’auteur évoque le bar britannique, dont le nom forme une paronomase de la fameuse prison Alcatraz ;
- le nombre de personnes incarcérées pour des peines longues augmente, ce qui pose un problème de surpopulation carcérale ;
- le Royaume-Uni a l’une des plus grandes populations carcérales d’Europe.
Ta réponse sera donc une réorganisation de ces trois points : n’oublie pas les connecteurs logiques !
En revanche, toutes les informations liées à la Covid-19 ne sont pas à prendre en compte pour répondre à cette première question, puisqu’elles ne sont pas un point commun spécifique aux États-Unis et au Royaume-Uni. La pandémie a en effet touché presque tous les pays du monde et, par conséquent, tous les systèmes carcéraux. Attention donc à bien cerner cette première question et à ne pas faire de hors sujet.
Analyse de la question 2
La seconde question est relativement ouverte et le champ d’analyse est plus large. On parle du monde anglophone et plus seulement du Royaume-Uni. Tu peux donc parler plus en détail du système carcéral américain par exemple.
Ici, la question te demande explicitement ton opinion, mais attention à toujours étayer tes idées au moyen d’exemples. Le « piège » de ce genre de question est que l’on oublie facilement de montrer ses connaissances. Or, la capacité du candidat à utiliser des exemples précis est une case du barème !
Les réponses aux questions d’expression écrite doivent toujours être organisées comme des mini-dissertations, donc avant de te lancer dans un plan, pense bien à identifier la tension que sous-tend la question. Pour notre sujet, c’est assez simple, il s’agit de peser le pour et le contre des différents systèmes carcéraux, et pourquoi pas, de les comparer.
Au vu de la binarité de la tension évoquée, il n’est pas exclu de formuler un plan de type dialectique ici (c’est-à-dire thèse-antithèse-synthèse). Mais attention, la troisième partie, communément connue sous le nom de « synthèse », ne doit pas se contenter de répéter les arguments vus dans les deux premières parties. L’idée de la synthèse, c’est de dépasser l’antinomie créée par le plan dialectique !
Pour notre sujet, on peut penser à un plan s’articulant comme ceci :
- Racial discrimination in American prisons: an unfair carceral system.
- British prisons and their effects on the recent decrease in criminality.
- Defunding the police as a visionary solution?
Bien entendu, il ne faut pas oublier de formuler une brève introduction ainsi qu’une conclusion. N’hésite pas à aller consulter nos autres conseils pour réussir à bluffer ton correcteur !
Proposition de corrigé
Voici les corrigés proposés pour ce sujet sur le système carcéral. Attention à la grammaire et à la façon dont tu rédiges tes réponses, il pourra t’être utile d’acquérir du vocabulaire pratique pour l’écrit !
1. The author tackles the British carceral and penal problems while comparing them with the American system. This analogy is grounded in three arguments, namely the ratio of prisoners in the United Kingdom when compared with that of other European countries, the overpopulation of carceral facilities in the country and – a more trivial but not less revealing topic – the popularity of a bar named Alcatroz in London.
As it is the case in the United States, the United Kingdom exceeds several other European countries when looking at the number of people detained in prison: 1.38 people out of 1,000 are incarcerated in England and Wales while 1.47 are in Scotland whereas this figure is inferior to 1 in Germany, the Netherlands and Norway. These statistics might also explain why there is a problem of carceral overpopulation in the United Kingdom.
The legal system is moreover changing: new acts might be criminalized while people are expected stay longer and longer in prison, which will exacerbate the congestion of carceral facilities in the country. The author indeed explains that more than 3,000 inmates do not know how long they will stay in prison while 11,000 people have been jailed for more than 10 years.
These problems might have motivated the creation of a bar named Alcatroz in London. The paronomasia with the word Alcatraz indeed reveals that the United Kingdom draws inspiration from the United States, whether it be regarding legal, carceral or entertaining topics.
2. “America is the land of the second chance – and when the gates of the prison open, the path ahead should lead to a better life,” George W. Bush declared. Yet, recently, Isaiah Gardenhire, an ex-convict, has been re-arrested in 2021 after killing three people in Michigan. Does it thus mean that Bush’s healthy conception of the carceral system is fading?
Firstly, carceral systems might seem unfair, notably regarding the United States, a country in which Black people face sentences higher than White people for the same crimes. This inequality has first been shown by Michelle Alexander in her book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (2010). Even if this disparity was reduced under Barack Obama, the gap still exists, which explains why the carceral system needs to change.
However, one cannot ignore the dissuasive effect of prisons as illustrated by the recent decrease in criminality in the United Kingdom: according to the Office for National Statistics, in 2020 the number of victims of violent crime decreased by 28% compared with 2019. Yet, some groups remain dissatisfied with the way prisons work.
After the death of George Floyd on May, 25th 2020, Black Lives Matter advocated for defunding the police. Between 1980 and 2010, the funds given to prisons quadrupled in the United States, but this money could have served to rehabilitate prisoners instead of being spent on building more facilities. All in all, these claims thrust into relief the necessity of rethinking carceral systems, but since 2020, Black Lives Matter has lost visibility while their idea of defunding the police started to be forgotten.
Si tu as fait le sujet, bravo ! Major-Prépa t’en propose un autre pour garder le rythme !