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Jailed with Rapists and Murderers: Why Is the Punishment for Graffiti in the UK So Extreme?

artist, writingWHATYOUWRITEComment
I knew things had gone too far when it was announced that graffiti writer Skeam had been found dead, hanging in his prison cell. While many questions have been asked during the inquest into his death, an important one remains: why was this 23-year-old handed a 30-month jail sentence for painting walls and trains in the first place?

Barely a month goes by without a graffiti artist being sent to jail. While GCSE art students and Italian tourists pay £20 a pop for a Shoreditch street art tour, writers are receiving heavier punishments than ever before. The maximum penalty for 12 to 17-year-olds is 24 months of detention, while adults can be sentenced to up to ten years in prison.

”Malicious mischief”, as vandalism is legally termed, might be a non-violent, victimless crime, but, for whatever reason, Britain has decided to make itself one of the only countries in Western Europe where artists can be punished with hefty custodial sentences. Whether or not you’re a fan of graffiti, surely it’s easy to recognise that it’s an offence best punished with a fine or community service, not a prison sentence – a penalty that costs the taxpayer and inflicts far more suffering on the artist than is really deserved.

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