Thursday, 1 July 2010

Let 'Em Out v Lock 'Em Up

Yesterday morning, while driving to a meeting in Milford Haven, I was listening to some interviews on the radio about the ConDem plans for the UK’s prison population.

It seems some sections of the population want to send even more people to prison, but they neglected to say who. At a guess I’d say that those proposing it are Daily Mail readers, and they’d select litter louts, anyone between 12 and 18, anyone who can’t prove their great grandparents were British and anyone with a foreign-sounding name - plus a few random people from the electoral roll.

One commentator suggested that our prisons are academies of crime where young inmates learn the tricks of the trade from old lags, coming out after having served their time well equipped to live a life of crime. Well hang on – if those doing the teaching are in prison, then they obviously aren’t all that good at being criminals. Young inmates will only learn how to ensure being caught – which is no bad thing.

Our Justice Minister, Ken Clarke, is worrying me; he’s increasingly just stringing random words together between the odd lucid sentence. It’s almost stream of consciousness stuff, except when he launches into pure gibberish.

Apparently the prison population has doubled from 40,000 to 80,000 in the years Labour was in power and obviously this is a national disgrace. The fact that crime has concomitantly gone down has somehow escaped Mad Dog Clarke and he seems intent on releasing these recidivists, who are responsible for 90% of the nation’s crime, onto the streets so he can save some dosh.

Why is it we get these see-saw policies that seem to have no firm evidence behind them other than untested party ideology. I wish that just one government would occasionally conduct an evidence-based experiment to test their ideologies before inflicting them on the nation. The problem is that such trials would need to extend beyond the term of a single parliament and the initiator of the trials would not be around to claim the kudos. The political driver is immediate gratification and a result within 2 years, which is insufficient for any decent social experiment and the cause of see-saw political initiatives. The actual result is lack of evidence for anything.

My solution to crime and the prison situation?

  • Release all those who were led into crime through having to fund a drug habit,
  • Legalise all drugs and fund drug dependency units through the NHS,
  • Enforce attendance by all drug addicts,
  • Of the remaining prisoners, anyone who has offended more than 3 times is locked away for life (or turned into a council serf and condemned to live in an institution and work for the state for the rest of their life),
  • Initiate a scientific trial of different rehabilitation methods on a section of the prison population, which will take a decade at least.

That way most petty crime is eliminated at a stroke and with the exception of the trial population, the small percentage that perpetrates most of the remaining crime is not at liberty to reoffend - ever again. Crime would plummet, we could reduce the police force by half, insurance premiums would come down dramatically and we would return to the halcyon days of steam trains and pipe smoking doctors.

1 comment:

  1. Could we arrange it so that anyone caught reading the Daily Mail is sent to prison : it would solve so many problems.