Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Ken Clarke Is Right: Prison Doesn't Always Work

Last October, I wrote a blogpost which included this paragraph...

Our prison system is set up for punishment, but rehabilitation takes a back seat. I hope under a Conservative government that will change. Being tough doesn't just mean locking people up and throwing away the key. A tough politician will take tough choices - and that means locking up fewer people and devoting more resources to preparing prisoners for life on the outside. Only in that way will reoffending rates drop.

There is one way in which prison works. If an offender is locked up he can't commit an offence. But it's a short term fix. Many offenders who are sent to prison for short term sentences go into prison as normally decent citizens who have made one mad mistake. They emerge from the prison system twice as likely to commit a crime again and very likely to be drug dependent.

Prison should be a place where people go who are a clear and present danger to society. We need to re-evaluate why we seend people to prison and what happens to them when they are inside. The evidence shows that soft criminals emerge as hard criminals. That drug free prison entrants emerge as addicts to one form of drug or another. That they are not prepared for life on the outside and therefore turn again to a life of crime. That education and rehabilitation take second place to the prison officers' desire for a calm and stable prison life.

When Ken Clarke was last Home Secretary the prison population was half what it is now. Has our society become twice as criminal? Jack Straw would argue that if we imprison so many people, it means they can't commit offences. As easy but puerile argument, because it merely delays their entry back into lives of crime.

Ken Clarke's speech today is a breath of fresh air, but I have no doubt that he will be derided as weak, liberal and unconservative by many on the right and authoritarian Labour left.

I agree we must be tough on crime, but we must also reexamine what is happening in our penal system, and surely anyone can see that it is not fit for purpose. Hardened criminals must be punished, and punished by losing their freedom. But for others community sentences, or even tougher financial penalties may be more appropriate. Prison is not always the right thing. It ought to be the sentence of last resort, rather than first.

Ken Clarke is showing courage by making this speech today, and I hope he has the political will to drive through the reforms to our prison and sentencing systems which are long overdue.


Shaun said...

Good for Ken. Good for all of us.

You don't 'solve' a problem like crime and recidivism by applying the same, failed, methods but with a bit more oomph. It is time to try something else and make a proper go of it because what we know for sure is that increasing the number of crimes (thanks Labour!) and the number of prison places and doubling the amount of Police AND prisoners has not done away with crime.

IanVisits said...

I agree with the intent, but do worry slightly that the historic trend has been for the Prisons Minister to respond to tabloid headlines than to media-unfriendly, but eminently sensible policies.

I hope Ken Clarke has the ability to say "Non!" when The Sun is ranting about a prison having Sky TV or some other hideous luxury that it demands they have taken away.

(actually, The Sun would support Sky TV, and rant if they got Freeview or cable!)

We should look at prison in the same way as we look at unemployment benefits.

Both are a cost to the taxpayer, and the goal should be to turn the recipient around from being a cost to a contributor as soon as possible.

Obviously, a criminal may need to be removed from society until they are ready to be returned - but we in society should consider that a sign that we failed to help the person seek an alternative to criminal behaviour.

(crimes on the heat of the moment are an obvious exception)

If we had slum-estates were people are segregated from society and living on benefits without any chance of getting a job - society would be rightly outraged.

Yet that is exactly what we have with the prison system.

I look forward to a day when we start closing prisons, because they are simply not needed anymore.

Guy Herbert said...

Perhaps the headline should be "often" rather than "always".

One thing that's usually missed in quoting recidivism rates is that prisons are places for unsuccessful criminals, and other easy targets for prosecution. Politicians, officials and commentators carry on using the tired formula "go on to re-offend," when "go on to be caught again," is more accurate.

Paddy Briggs said...

Yes this is a splendid statement by Ken Clarke and very welcome. I do believe that we need a radical rethink of crime and punishment in our society. In essence only those beyond redemption, and/or guilty of the most heinous crimes, should be incarcerated for long periods. For others an emphasis on rehabilitation rather than retribution is desirable. And the prison conditions are shameful…

Johnny Norfolk said...

Well with less police. less in prison, less with benifits, more unemployed.This is not a good idea. I did not vote Tory to reduce police numbers and let even more criminals out on our streets. I think I will be proved right that Camerons is more Heath like and will make matters worse not better. New election within 2 years.

Rebel Saint said...

Prison doesn't work. But neither do "community sentences".

We can't stop putting them in prison til there's something else in place. Otherwise they really are getting off scott free.

Restorative justice is the solution.

IanVisits said...

@Johnny Norfolk

The idea is to have fewer criminals on the streets - thanks to rehabilitating them so that they are no longer criminals.

Dave said...

I agree that over-long sentences do nothing to rehabilitate the offender, but there are many in our jails who should never be released. By shortening jail sentences for some, will we not have the likes of Sutcliff and Huntley arguing that keeping them in prison goes against their human rights?
There has to be a deterrent and short sentences aren't it.
If we brought back hanging as well perhaps we could have a lower prison population.
Dead criminals don't reoffend.
I visit someone in jail who is currently banged up 23 hours a day with nothing to do because there's not enough staff to supervise the inmates. It isn't something I'd care to experience day in, day out.
He's already two years over tariff, but the Parole Board system is so overloaded it cannot process prisoners quickly enough. He will be in prison for at least another year. Then there's the shortage of Probation Officers.

You see, it's not as simple as all that. This may end up as another failed gesture, hamstrung by the HRA and bleeding heart liberals.
You can reduce the prison population. It requires shorter sentences AND the return of Capital Punishment.

MikeyP said...

It depends on what you mean by "work". If you mean rehabilitation, then that may or may not be true, but since most criminals seem unresponsive to any efforts to rehabilitate them, I would suggest that long prison sentences DO work as they keep the criminals out of circulation. It might be an idea to make prison life much less comfortable, though!

DocRichard said...

Community Payback is the way to go, for all except those that are a danger to society. Oh, and greater income equality, . which will be tough on the causes of crime

Anonymous said...

we already send less criminals to prison per crime than almost any developed nation....and guess what....we have one of the highest crime rates.

one of the few things labour got right was increasing the prison population.

higher financial penalties will simply mean most criminals go out and rob/shoplift more to pay the fine.....hardly progressive. it costs about £40000 to keep somone locked up, and on average the cost to society of each crime is approx £1500, with the median offender committing 150 crimes the maths. (oh and the normal high court trial costs £30000, so each time you let someone out who is subsequenly reincarcerated you blow nearly a year's imprisonment costs for nothing.)

when new york went for the highly praised 'broken windows' zero tolerance policy they also made provision to nearly treble their prison population.....and guess what.....crime plummeted.

rehabilitation efforts need to be totally overhauled, and locking up the corrupt prison officers and civilian staff who are the mules for the drugs going in would be a positive step!

but you can never escape from the fact that people who are desperate enough to commit violent offences against the person are not ever going to be deterred by the threat of having to clear a few shopping trolleys out of the local simply doesn't work, and the law abiding majority deserve to be protected from the vile underclass who wreck so many lives.

Unknown said...

The answer is to give more power to the prisons and probation service and hold them accountable for recidivism. Judges should decide only on the severity of the sentence, in the light of the crime, but the prisons/probation service should then decide how it should be served (by incarceration, community service or whatever), so as best to rehabilitate the convict and avoid recidivism.

DemocracyFail said...

Prisons are full of people who do not belong there and the current over capacity has made rehabilitation even less likely.

I know an A level student sentenced to two years for causing death by dangerous driving. There was no carelessness or drink or drugs involved, just inexperience.

He was despatched to a prison 120 miles from his home, where he is incarcerated alone in his cell for 23.5 hrs a day. His chances to attend any courses are rare. It takes weeks to get a library appointment. His only opportunity to exercise outside is for 15 minutes at 7am. Yes, he has a TV in his cell but, without it, he would surely go insane.

No one is saying there shouldn't be a penalty for his offence. But today there are so many alternatives, such as curfew or community service. Either would save the state money. The financial cost of imprisonment goes way beyond the annual prison bill. Entire families are affected and their health and welfare must be paid for.

Of course it is particularly convenient to cut prison costs in these straitened times. Nonetheless I applaud the sincerity of Ken Clarke and the excellent endeavours of organisations like the Howard League for Penal Reform.

Twig said...

All this proves is that we have lost control of prisons, if drugs are so freely available.

Just tighten up the security and introduce some proper discipline. While inside they should be denied mobile phones, and all the other modern conveniences.

Community sentences do not act as a deterrent, and are often ignored by the offenders, with little or no enforcement, and even when they do attend they just stand around in prominent places wearing hi-viz jackets while smoking and joking around with their attendants.

Brian said...

Prison should be reserved for punishing TV licence non-payers and pensioners unable to afford Council Tax. Every other so-called criminal is a victim of global capitalism and deserves a suite in the Ritz instead.

Danny Law said...

and what would this exciting new range of options be that are 'different' from 'just' locking people up.

i suspect the same old liberal tosh as before. community service that no one goes on, fines they dont pay (or at 60p a week out their benefit) and warnings and cautions that criminals think are a joke.

no iain - the prision works argument is not puerile. because when these scum bags are in prison they are not making other peoples lives a misery.

and as for those sneering at the Sun. rememeber the Sun tends to represent the kind of people who are effected by low level, day to day crime. unlike most of the liberal bleeding hearts posting on this thread. most of whom - like iain live in very nice places and dont have the slightest idea what it is like to put up with crime on a daily basis.

if you all think cautions and community penalities are such a good idea. go and live on a sink estate for 5 years and see if you still feel so liberal after that.

Tuechter said...

Sorry Iain but I feel your comments and those of Mr Clarke on this subject are misguided. The bien pensant view of offenders as under-socialised, victims of society is treated as an almost holy relic by the liberal elite in the UK.

Allied to that view is the constant dirge concerning rehabilitation without defining what exactly that means. Stalin had a view about rehabilitation as do those people who insist of offenders having Sky TV in their 'accommodation'.

Any attempt to examine the relationship between crime rates and incarceration rates does n't get to run in this race.

Instead as the poet said; the dog goes back to its vomit, the sow goes back to its mire and the burnt fool's bandaged finger goes wobbling back to the fire.

Anonymous said...

I broadly agree. our current prison situation is crazy. Certainly if it means people who commit serious crimes like murder and manslaughter stay in prison longer then it will be a good move.

A first priority should be a corrupt free prison service.

Anonymous said...

Far too high a number leave prison unable to read and functionally innumerate. Basic education in the three 'R's should be a cornerstone of any prison sentence and achieving a minimum standard a pre-condition of parole, even accelerated parole. It would dramatically improve life chances on the outside, improve self-esteem and provide additional focus on the inside.

When it comes to non-custodial sentencing education should also be an integral part but research should be undertaken as to which non-custodial sentences might act as a deterrent to crime rather than just a 'soft option'.

I am not old enough to know whether corporal punishment was effective. Could we go back? Would we go back?

Anonymous said...

Surely this will leave victims feeling that justice hasnt been done though?

Perhaps preventing the drugs from entering the prison in the first place may be a sensible way forward?

Edward Bond said...

tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime?

life's little cycles.....

Good Idea though.

Nigel said...

Johnny N. might benefit from the attentions of the grammar police.

The Purpleline said...

Iain, Clarke is nearly there but we have to go further, we will never stamp out crime, we are humans, it is how we devise our society that dictates crime levels.

Under Labour they created so many crimes that we all probably break one or two on a daily basis without knowing. This has the unforeseen ability to criminalise all of us in the UK. This stops people policing themselves their extended families and communities as crime has become so common and the people so disassociated with Police, who for targets have dropped common sense policing and adopted arresting for targets culture. In a way we have created a criminal celebrity class.

This has happened by design and via the normal routes of youth culture.

I believe we need to cut the number of crimes on the statute book.
Only send to prison criminals that have done a crime that the minimum sentence is two years and above.

Then make 50% of the custodial sentence hard and harsh conditions and the final 50% in a more relaxed rehabilitation prison getting them ready to come out and work.

And work they should have as soon as the door to the prison opens.

So no creature comforts for the first half of their sentence, basic food, basic accommodation.

I would also make sure no Mobile telephony is possible within the walls of the prison. That any prisoner found using, dealing in drugs inside is sentenced to double their current custodial time.

And finally I know the lefties reading this will love purpleline.
ban religion from Prisons.

Richard said...

SinoSimon.. I agree with your post.
If prison was actually more of a deterent then surely the reoffending would be reduced. In the US the prison system is far tougher, they have the death penalty in many states and a three strikes and you are out policy.

If someone reoffends continually then they should lose their right to live in society and be locked up for life. I think we need to get tougher on crime. For too long we have pandered to the rights of the offender and not looked after the good honest people whose lives are contiually affected by these criminals.

Unknown said...

Sort out the drugs problem and you sort out the prison overcrowding problem and cut crime dramatically.

Danny Law said...

all the bleeding heart liberals on this thread keep talking about not putting people in prison and ' better ways'

can we have some substance please -
1.what are these better ways you advocate ?

2. what proof do you have these wonderful new ways will work ?(other than your peverse desire to let criminals stay on the street and keep hurting innocent people)

3. at what point wil you admit you are wrong ?

4. if you think these wonderful new ways are so good are you prepared to go and live with the people (on the rubbish council estates) who are most likely to be at the cutting edge of your experiment and deal with the thugs coming back again and again with nothing that can be done to stop them.

dont all rush to leave your nice comfortable, crime free, middle class neighbourhoods

Jimmy said...

Good speech. Fortunately Ken appears not to have wasted his time reading his party's manifesto.

Kryten 2X4B 523P said...

I normally enjoy reading this blog, but this is one of the worst, ill thought out articles in a while.

Prison should be there to do 3 things - Punish the offender, Protect the general population from the offender, and if possible , Reform the offender.

The English prison service fails dismally on all 3 counts.

Firstly there *needs* to be a radical review of everything considered to be a "criminal offence" these days - sorting that out will stop people being jailed for selling goldfish ffs.

Secondly, the sentence given should be the sentence served - no time off for remand or good behaviour - the only way a sentence should be reduced in any way is if the offender can be shown to have bettered themselves while incarcerated (i.e general education leading to qualifications etc) - dont force them to do it, but make the facility available.

Thirdly, prison needs to be a punishment. Remove access to internet, only have approved viewing / reading material (i.e. educational). Make life inside *uncomfortable* so that they dont want to come back. For those with a life sentence, life should mean life. Build a prison specifically to house these offenders somewhere out of the way (like an island in the shetlands maybe) to keep them well away from the rest of society.

Tinkering round the edges with more fines, lower sentences will do absolutely nothing, as Labour have proven over the last 13 years.

Kryten 2X4B 523P said...

I normally enjoy reading this blog, but this is one of the worst, ill thought out articles in a while.

Prison should be there to do 3 things - Punish the offender, Protect the general population from the offender, and if possible , Reform the offender.

The English prison service fails dismally on all 3 counts.

Firstly there *needs* to be a radical review of everything considered to be a "criminal offence" these days - sorting that out will stop people being jailed for selling goldfish ffs.

Secondly, the sentence given should be the sentence served - no time off for remand or good behaviour - the only way a sentence should be reduced in any way is if the offender can be shown to have bettered themselves while incarcerated (i.e general education leading to qualifications etc) - dont force them to do it, but make the facility available.

Thirdly, prison needs to be a punishment. Remove access to internet, only have approved viewing / reading material (i.e. educational). Make life inside *uncomfortable* so that they dont want to come back. For those with a life sentence, life should mean life. Build a prison specifically to house these offenders somewhere out of the way (like an island in the shetlands maybe) to keep them well away from the rest of society.

Tinkering round the edges with more fines, lower sentences will do absolutely nothing, as Labour have proven over the last 13 years.

Unknown said...

Very few 'minor crime' offenders are given short sentences on their first appearance before a court. By the time they are actually given a custodial sentence they have been through the whole system of cautions, fines and community sentences. They are thus already well established in their patterns of offending behaviour and are highly likely to reoffend on release.

If fines were rigourously collected and community sentences were meaningful, enforced and, most importantly, visible to the public then we might start seeing a reduction in recidivism.

Paul Halsall said...

Contra Jack Straw (in the Daily Mail!), I think I rather approve of Ken Clarke's proposed approach to prisons. And I don't think Labour should be proud of increasing incarceration rates.

Crime did fall under Labour, but there was far to much effort devoted to criminalising all sorts of behaviours (not to mention keeping up a pointless war on drugs).

I know linking causes and effects is especially difficult in crime stats, but it is at least probably that the main reason for decline in per capita crime has been the aging population. For whatever reason, late teen and early twenties men are by far the group likeliest to offend, and as a percentage of the population this group has declined.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm... Less prisoners means less prisons... I wonder if probation officers supplied by the likes of Group 4 are less expensive than a properly trained prison officer?

Sobers said...

As Toby says above - you very rarely get sent down first time. Most people in prison have been through the system many times before they got a custodial sentence. I have a friend who works in the tagging system - she tears her hair out at the ludicrous excuses given by tagged criminals for having gone AWOL, and the idiots on the Bench who effectively say 'Naughty boy, don't do it again' and let them off with no extra punishment.

It is fantasy that society can change people over night from criminals to honest members of society. People only change when they want to - usually when they get a bit older, have a bit more to lose by going inside - relationships, children, jobs etc etc. In the mean time the best we can do is lock people up away from the rest of us to prevent them doing any more harm.

The best rehabilitation would be improved detection rates, proper sentences (5 years means 5 years), and no luxuries inside.

Penfold said...

Criminals must be punished.

Those that offend against the mores of society must be penalised.

Our mores should not and must not be used, by the offenders to justify their actions or protect them from society's revenge.

Prisons must be seen as a place of punishment and criminals must apologise and seek forgiveness from victims prior to rehabilitation. Recidivists clearly show their contempt and should be banged up for a lengthy period with hard labour. Indeed we need to look at the Prison Service and ensure that it is cost effective as possible with inmates made to work. And, notwithstanding any possible bleating from the lefties or Brussels, inmates should be stripped of any rights. Having been irresponsible they cannot rely on the mores on society which they have so cavalierly rejected.

We should also I believe, look very closely at the reimposition of capital punishment for murder cases. This would no doubt require a referendum rather than a free parliamentary vote, as it is for the people to decide, those that suffer the crime, not an individuals conscience (MP) when he represents 50,000 people who are then disenfranchised.

But, let us never forget, that in a democracy different opinions and viewpoints must be aired and allowed to be aired and contrary positions and views supported.

Whilst I disagree with Ken Clarke's broad thrust, he does raise a very valid question regarding justice/prison/rehabilitaion/recidivism/jail and how society needs to be protected.

grumpyoldbookworm said...

There needs to be a sanction to make community punishment work, or some offenders will not turn up to unpaid work, drug treatment programmes etc. If all they get is a telling off, the others will stop turning up as well. These are the people on short term prison sentences, and their attitude is why their reoffending rates are poor. Those who respond to community sentences are not in prison at all.
re: JacquieR's death by dangerous driving offender - what do you think the victim's family think the sentence should have been? I doubt that their view would be tempered by the fact that he has A levels.

David Lindsay said...

Light sentences and lax prison discipline are both expressions of the perfectly well-founded view that large numbers of those convicted, vastly in excess of the numbers that have always existed at any given time, are in fact innocent.

We need to return to a free country's minimum requirements for conviction, above all by reversing the erosion of the right to silence and of trial by jury, and by repealing the monstrous provisions for anonymous evidence and for conviction by majority verdict. And we need to return to proper policing.

Then we could and should return to proper sentencing, and to proper regimes in prison. But only then.

p smith said...

I agree with much of what Ken Clarke says. After all it is classic left leaning liberal thought that used to be Labour policy until they felt the need to pretend to be more authoritarian than Michael Howard.

Of course the public will have a hard time swallowing this given that Cameron & Co used just about every stabbing and shooting in the past 5 years as a political tool to attack the government with the implicit criticism in each case that Labour was soft on crime, soft on sentencing and too often protected the criminals rather than the victims. They can hardly now complain if the Sun and the Mail doesn't like what they see now that there will be no new prisons, no tougher sentences and a renewed focus on rehabilitating offenders.

That said, I commend Clarke for at least trying to tackle this even if ultimately they end up doing nothing.

Tim Almond said...

"Many offenders who are sent to prison for short term sentences go into prison as normally decent citizens who have made one mad mistake. "

Almost no-one goes to prison for "one mad mistake". It takes a number of offences before you go to prison. It's why we have cautions, community service, suspended sentences and so forth (all of which act as deterrents for the majority of offenders). Jail is already a last resort option.

You want to really deal with prison? Provide a safe way to supply heroin and crack cocaine addicts with drugs and you'll reduce the amount of crime to supply people's habits.

Lady Finchley said...

Jacquie R make a great point. And yes what about the CSA and debt deafulters (dock their pay like they do in the States and attach their property) and the mentally ill? Leave it to the desperate Labour party and Right Wing red necks to act like we are talking about rapists and paedos.

Lady Finchley said...

Oh yes and also graffiti artists - mostly young guys in their 20's who become targets for rape and are unable to work after release because they have a prison record. And for what? Some letters on a wall? Judges need to get real and stop jailing easy targets and get the real crims inside.

Jane said...

Having worked in the criminal justice System for 30 years, I believe Ken Clarke is right. we have reducing crime figures yet our prison population has increased. Why?

!. Foreign National Prisoners amount to 11,500. Most of these people are drug couriers. Although we introduced legislation in 2008 that those sentenced to over 12 months would be sent to prisons in their own country, we need their consent to do so!! Appeals are rife - breach of human rights etc etc. I believe the government are looking at compulsory removal and about time too. In 2009 we removed 41 prisoners and accepted 64 British prisoners from other countries. Can anyone tell me if other European countries are so lax? I think it is a disgrace and a reason too why our legal aid bill is high as they all get legal representation.

2. The introduction of public protection orders which are indeterminate and are similar to life sentences although with a lower tariff. There are now 13,000 prisoners with this sentence. These were introduced to deal with cases of those who pose serious risk to the community but their index offence did not warrant a lengthy prison sentence. In my opinion judges are imposing too many and we have not resourced the numbers. We are often sued by prisoners when prison establishments fail to follow procedures in their sentence planning. The are jamming the prison system.

3. Too many people being sentenced to short terms of imprisonment. There were 3821 serving under 6 months last month and 2546 between 6-12 months. Useless in terms of any rehabilitation (leading to reduced offending) - we are housing them at huge cost.

4. Prisoners on remand 10,545 of which 6,807 are untried. Surely we do not need to remand so many offenders. I suggest more bail provision run by the private sector - much, much cheaper. Further, we need more hostels for addiction problems and mental health issues. Such people are often remanded for their own safety and not because they pose harm to the community.

5. Prisoners recalled for breaching licence supervision requirements. There were 5,300 recalls which is staggering. The largest proportionate increase last years were for theft offences.

Not very good. Home Office statistics also indicate the rises in length of sentence between May 2009-2010. 17% were under 6 months. Dreadful situation.

Of course we need to look at the huge cost of containing so many prisoners. We so not commit more crimes - we do have more offences than other countries. We also live in fear as out red tops try to persuade us we live in a crime ridden country. Fear far outweighs.

At one time offenders were able to work in the community much more than they are permitted to do so now. The jobs they once did are now undertaken by council workers. Those offenders who do not pose a risk should be undertaking community service work - their services will be needed as councils reduce their workforce. Those not in work should be made to have education classes as part of a sentence as too many prisoners are illiterate.

We could do so much to reduce offending and reduce costs. We should not have the debate that Ken Clarke has started. Good for him

Gareth said...

There are problems with all this. Firstly there isn't a 'bang em up' culture and it is almost impossible that 'an otherwise decent member of society' would get sent to prison for one 'mad' mistake, unless that mistake was very serious indeed. That is just nonsense. The reason there are so many people in prison is because crime has gone through the roof. Secondly, rehabilitation isn't something you can do to someone who has very little interest in it. It's not like painting a fence or mowing the lawn. And thirdly, if we are going to have 'rigorously enforced' community orders, what do we do with those who don't/won't comply? Where have you peolple been living? we have been trying to rehabilitate people since court missionaries appeared 100 years ago. The reason so many people on short sentences reoffend is because they are the ones who commit low level crime such as shop thefts and they have entrenched drugs and alcoshol issues. There is an industry currently engaged with these people offering all the support they need. True there could be some tweaking but this whole statement by Ken proves the saying 'Anything is possible if you don't understand the problem'.

Gareth said...

To Edward - 'Hold prison's and probation accountable for reoffending' REALLY! I thought the offender was accountable. What happened to conservative ideas on personal responsibility? I think I have stepped into cloud cuckoo land. And to IanVisits - No sorry, offending is a personal failing and not one we should all wring our hands about unless we did it or helped them do it. THis idea that all offenders are automatons driven by drug lust is wrong. Many of them make rational choices to offend because they can handle the possible consequences. Uncomfortable but true I am afraid.

Redbull said...

I think people really overcomplicate this issue. If I was about to commit a crime, I would make two quick risk assessments/calculations;
(1) What are the chances I will get caught?
(2) If I did get caught, what consequences would I face?
The answers to the above two questions would determine what I then did.
I agree that the administration of the penal system is utterly lamentable and that the issues of inadequate rehabilitation programmes, and drugs use in prison need to be seriously and urgently addressed. However, these are issues of administrative incompetence/ corruption(?). They are not intended to be part of the "prison experience", so I think we are on shaky ground if we are suggesting that these are reasons in themselves why short term prison sentences 'do not work'.
Going back to the risk assessment above: I (and I think most people) would be a lot less inclined to commit a crime if the answer to (2) was "prison", rather than "a fine" (which I wouldn't need to pay if I was poor) or "community service" (which I wouldn't need to do if I could get my doctor to write a me note). I also believe that I would be EVEN LESS inclined to commit a crime if the answer to (2) was "prison, where there's no telly, the food is crap, and I have to work all day".
So that's one less crime already! :-)

Catosays said...

Blogger IanVisits said...

The idea is to have fewer criminals on the streets - thanks to rehabilitating them so that they are no longer criminals.

Dream on my friend, dream on!

Unsworth said...

@ Jane

Nicely done.

Gareth said...

Jane -
1)Agreed in full
2)Most of the IPP cases I know of should have been lifed off with bigger tariffs. Anyway prison is the best place for dangerous people and the longer they are there the better in my view. Bit of a red herring in terms of short sentence debate.
3)Short term sentences are problematic but normally come after everything else has been tried ad nauseum. In my view most drug offenders shouldn't even be in the CJS, they should be getting prescribed heroin etc in a safe way. Solve the drug problem by realising its not actually a problem, its just a reality of human existence.
4)Most people on remand should be there. Its very hard getting someone remanded. Normally it is due to concerns re further offending. Are you offering your house to be burgled by a prolific burglar who gets bail? No, me neither.
5)Prisoners recalled - If you commit an offence while you are already serving a sentence, but have been granted the privelige of being released early so you can start building a better life, why shouldn't you get recalled. How does turning a blind eye help to rehabilitate anyone.
Any use of statistics and personally I stop listening as they have been fiddled with in all directoins so much as to be meaningless. Courts are busier than ever, Police are busier than ever, Probation is busier than ever, but crime has gone down. Good trick if you can pull it off I suppose.
As for letting offenders replace council workers? Surely you don't mean that.
It is unpalettable but we need to get tougher on crimes of choice i.e people who do not have addictions etc, violence and financial offending. More emphasis on culpability leading to harsher penalties. Redbull is right, most of the offenders I know, know full well the state cannot deploy and consequences that they can't easily handle. Rehabilitation can only be successful with those that want to change or are at least ambivalent and it can take years. Crime is a symptom of a liberal capitalist society and the current emphasis on saving money by simply rehabilitating people is ridiculously facile. Everythog Ken suggests has been happening for years.

Anonymous said...

Off topic - but last night on the BBC news there was a long piece about how Merkel was under pressure because her party's candidate might nor win the job of federal President. If he did not it was game over for Merkel (and of course her austerity policies -- hint hint hint).

Well - he did win. Will the BBC make a start on its own economic austerity package by sacking their partial and incompetent reporter?

Unknown said...

Surely not a ruse to ensure certain former Palace of Westminster "fraudsters" (not until proven guilty of course) do not end up where they actually belong?

Sean said...

A couple of thoughts.

In the Telegraph today is a table indicating our prison population per 100,000 population is similar to Spain and Australia, although a good deal higher than France and Germany.

In the Sunday Times this week, the redoubtable Jeremy Clarkson suggested that we have more prisoners doing work in the community. Of course he went OTT, but if, for example, convicted people could do trimming of verges, council workers could be freed to keep OAPs gardens tidy. (I know many OAPs are justifiably proud of their gardens, but for others it becomes too much).

I am sure that there are many other tasks in the community that could similarly be done by people convicted of low-grade offences, while they live at home at no cost to the taxpayer.

Twig said...

@Sean Haffey

What if the offender is a pensioner with a dodgy hip who couldn't pay their council tax or TV licence?

Would they have to tend other peoples gardens?

The Random Punter said...

I'm not sure whether the numbers we send to prison are right, but we need to send the right people to prison. People on their 20th burglary offence need to be sent to jail for a fair long time; people should never be sent to jail for non-payment of council tax, TV licence etc. Or for that matter graffiti artists. Or for that matter, people who cause death by dangerous driving, or drunk drivers, unless they are repeat offenders.

Prison should be to lock those who are an active and significant danger to society away and protect society from them. Murderers, rapists, robbers, petty burglars are a danger to society. Non-payers of state bills are not. People who have made single catastrophic driving errors are not. The vast majority of fraudsters are not. The state must find better ways of dealing with these people, while opening up prison places for those who need to be locked away for everyone else's benefit.

Lady Finchley said...

Redbull - what you must keep in mind is that most people who commit crime are chaotic with very little in way of 'self control'. They tend to live in the moment and cannot envisage consquences. This is not mitigation - it is merely explaining why they are highly unlikely to think things through as you or I or most rational people do. Unfortunately by the time most of these people reach adulthood the lack of self-control is ingrained. You may be interested in reading about Hirshci and Gottfredson's 'control theory'.

bantambabe said...

The last Labour Government was keen to remind us that the crime rate was falling. So, is it coincidence that this occurred alongside the highest number of people imprisoned? Also, what penalty would there be for all the unpaid fines and people who persistently refuse to turn up to see their probation officer? Interestingly, we imprison fewer people per 1,000 crimes committed than any other country where these stats are kept! That's one for the "bleeding heart liberals" to think about.

Johnny Norfolk said...

If this policy is followed just watch crime increase and there will be more people frightened to leave their home.
Prison has become far to free and easy, it should be somewhere people fear to go

The Tory party is now soft on crime.

Cynic said...

Large numbers in prison are still the fine defaulters who wont pay and prefer to do a few days inside to wipe out a large debt ....and then walk off back to the pub with a 'resettlement grant' courtesy of the taxpayer.

neil craig said...

If you saw this being discussed on Question Time last night, with Alan Johnstone saying "lock 'em up) & Iain Duncan Snoth obviously sioncereely & correctly explaining what the problems are & what should be done I think you will agree that that IDS gas done more to "detoxify" the Tory brand than all Caneron's trips to glaciers & hoody hugging combined. The combination of sincerety & complete command of the facts is unbeatable. Also very rare in our politics.