Monday, 14 June 2010

Fewer Criminals Could Go To Jail

That is the headline in the print edition of the Daily Telegraph to this story on-line in which Ken Clarke, Justice Secretary is reported as saying: ".....But why is the prison population twice what it was when I was Home Secretary not so very long ago?....."

Leaving aside the fact the population of our country has grown, that we are unable to deport those who should be deported, it might have something to do with the fact that Ken Clarke was the Home Secretary when legislation which significantly lowered prison populations came in 1992 (piloted by Kenneth Baker but enacted under Kenneth Clarke). But ministers soon changed their mind. Kenneth Clarke introduced new legislation in 1993, partially reversing the 1991 act, to allow courts to take into account previous convictions when determining sentences, which in practical terms meant that repeat offenders would face longer sentences.

In the 2010 General Election the LibDems did not have that much to say on imprisonment other than a commitment to cancel the previous government's planned expansion of prisons through various policies (page 74). On the other hand the Conservative's manifesto stated: "We are determined that early release will not be introduced again, so we will redevelop the prison estate and increase capacity as necessary to stop it......So we will introduce a system where the courts can specify minimum and maximum sentences for certain offenders. These prisoners will only be able to leave jail after their minimum sentence is served by having earned their release, not simply by right." (page 57/58). On the basis of cost-cutting (and the 'stitch-up' by CamerLegg our joint rulers) it would appear the Conservative policy has obviously been 'revised' - and in fact prison building did not appear as a subject in the post-election manifesto. (Page 23/24).

Far be it for me to suggest that politicians change their minds for political expediency, or to gain financial benefit from ministerial office - perish the thought - but a number of decisions could be taken to tackle crime in this country. Were we not paying £6.4billion per annum and set to rise to £10.3billion by 2014/15, were we not funding unnecessary quangos* and 'fake' charities, were we able to govern ourselves instead of being subservient to Brussels and were we lucky enough to have politicians of conviction who believed that those who broke society's rules did not deserve the benefits of that society - things might be slightly different!

*Talking of which, one has to wonder how much this little lot cost!

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