Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Home Office in more crisis

You will no doubt have heard that John Reid the Home Secretary, Lord Falconer, the Lord Chancellor, and the Attorney General Lord Goldsmith have sent letters to magistrates and courts asking them not to lock up so many people. if you haven't you can read the BBC's article here and the Daily Mail here.

Well, this just smacks of incompetence and muddled thinking. For quite some time now convicted criminals have been getting longer sentences and prisons have been filling up. In fact a government study in 2000 predicted we would need 100,000 prison places by 2006. Well we only have 80,000.

Norwich prisons A wing, condemned and closed as unfit has had to be reopened for remand prisoners (these are people who may well be guilty of no crime, but seem to get the worst prison places).

This government has had plenty of warning that it is running out of places but has done nothing.

However the letter makes interesting reading. It points out that prisons are an expensive resource. They are. It says that only dangerous and persistent offenders should be locked up. I agree. However you can't have sentencing policy decided by the number of prison places. What about all the first time non dangerous offenders who were locked up last week? It is bizarre. What is more when you have a resource as expensive as prison, you must make sure it is doing it's job correctly which it can't do if they are too full.

No comments: