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"The Americans keep telling us how successful their system is. Then they remind us not to stray too far from our hotel at night." - An un-named EU trade representative quoted during international trade talks in Denver, Colorado, 1997.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Going sensible

Right, I've had it. I mean, what is this?

The coalition government is going sensible on crime.

First they start going on about reducing prison sentences, which is sensible, seeing as:

(a) Prison is extremely expensive;

(b) Prisons are hugely overcrowded, yet building more prisons would be massively expensive;

(c) Overcrowded prisons are even more expensive, because inmates serving indeterminate sentences cannot get places on risk-reducing courses and so their risk cannot be reduced, meaning they do not get released on parole and are kept in prison for longer; and

(d) Prison generally does not, contrary to what Mr Howard suggested, work. Unless by "work", you mean "serve to squander public money at the expense of any real benefit to society".

Next, the coalition government announced plans to use restorative justice more widely. Which is sensible because:

(a) it is popular with victims of crime, as they feel more involved in the process;

(b) it aims to reintegrate offenders into the community, meaning they are less likely to reoffend in the future;

(c) when used as an alternative to the traditional criminal justice process, it can avoid criminalising people, which is especially important for young offenders.

And today, Theresa May has been talking about abolishing the affront to logic which is the ASBO. Bloody well sensible again!

If things carry on like this, I'm going to be left with nothing to rant about.

I never thought I'd miss Alan Johnson.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I to couldn't believe what was going on. I've even recently considered voting "Cons" next election if they carry on this way.

I realise now they are appealing only because Labour had moved so far to the right, that the Conservatives reversing some of their policies is progressive.

When the "coalition" (90% consevative 10% lib dems) roll back asbos and realize that locking up people willy nilly is not the answer, it's only because New Labour (Dave, Ed, Ed Balls et al) were able to test drive these policies for them.

Still not sure about George Osborne.


28 July, 2010 22:06  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lots of qualitative adjectives - extremely, massively - and subjective opinion - less likely etc - do you have any facts to back these assertions up? Also, if as you assert, prisons do not work, then maybe we should come up with a system whereby prisons are made to work by making them such unwelcoming and abhorrent establishments that no one but the really hardened criminals will consider that the punishment is worth the gain from the crime. And don't even start to say that we can' t do that because of the Human Rights Act - Rights are earned by being a compliant member of society in these situations, and not because some lawyer has decided otherwise. So young crininals should not be called such because it harms their future - tough, they should have thought about it before commiting the crime.

01 August, 2010 21:08  
Anonymous Maisie said...

Anonymous, my friend, I have plenty of facts to back these assertions up. I had thought I'd given reasons for my opinion in my post, though I accept it was not bulging with bibliographic references (it being a blog and not an academic journal and all). However, I can see I have left you wanting more, so here you are:

In 2008-2009 it cost about £31,106 per prisoner, per place. That is extremely expensive, isn't it? And, I think, warrants the use of the qualitative adjective.

This article summarises the affect of dangerous offender provisions on prison overcrowding and the affect this has on prisoners not getting onto risk-reducing courses and therefore being kept in prison longer (N.B. At £31,106 per year, it costs more money if a prisoner is kept in for longer):

Whether you think prison “works” or not, depends on what you mean by “work”. What I mean by “work” is serve to reduce crime. The way things are at the moment, prison does not “work” in this way. You suggest a system where prisons are lovingly rendered into a series of scenes from Hostel. I'm personally not in favour of this, mainly because deterrence is over-rated in such contexts. The length of the sentence does not deter, but rather the prospect of being caught in the first place. (Lots of research on this, but you could have a look at the Halliday Report (2001).) In addition to that, it seems silly to suggest that all offenders are capable of weighing up the pros and cons of offending, since much offending is carried out in a state of intoxication and can often be a spur of the moment decision. If offenders are not carrying out a Cost Benefit Analysis each time they offend, then they are not going to be deterred by the prospect of a skanky prison.

You say “So young criminals should not be called such because it harms their future - tough, they should have thought about it before commiting the crime”. I understand from this comment that you see no benefit in reducing recidivism rates. Which means that you see no benefit in reducing crime rates, which means... hang on, are you a criminal lawyer? You just want more work don't you! Only joking Anonymous. But, seriously, I would be most interested to hear what you think the aim of the criminal justice system should be and what, ideally, we should be trying to achieve if not the reduction and ideally eradication of crime.

Finally, you argue that “rights are earned by being a compliant member of society and not because some lawyer has decided otherwise”. I eagerly await the facts you have to back this assertion up. Mainly because I'm not sure I quite understand where you're coming from.

03 August, 2010 11:07  

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