Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Three strikes

The Tories are promising to revive their three-strikes plan for sentencing persistent offenders. The Telegraph reports:

‘In 1997, Howard introduced legislation that laid down a mandatory minimum sentence of seven years for those convicted for a third time of a drug trafficking offence involving a class A drug and… three years for those convicted for the third time of burglary.

However, Labour secured an amendment to the Act that stated that mandatory sentences should not be imposed if the judge considered it "unjust".

Of course, this is the same Labour whose early release scheme has already resulted in 3,500 additional crimes- 500 of them violent- being committed by people who hadn’t served their original full sentence. The Tories have also undertaken to end that nonsense.

There has been the usual outcry from the usual people- including the mandatory BBC platform for some wide-eyed loon from the Institute for Public Policy Research. Their argument is that recidivism is rife, so prison doesn’t work. But neither do expensive rehabilitation programmes, and I’d rather sleep soundly in my bed knowing at least the three-strikers are out.

Forever, if necessary.

And neither does it wash that we already have a ‘shamingly’ high number of prisoners by international standards. The UK currently has about 70,000: if we had the same number as the US, relative to population, we’d have well over 300,000.

Costs? As noted in a previous post, at nearly 40 grand a year, prison accommodation is not cheap, and Tory plans envisage another 20,000 places. That could be…gulp… three-quarters of a billion more every year. No wonder there are people round our way- rough uncaring people- who point out that a length of rope from B&Q only costs a fiver.

Obviously you wouldn’t start from here, but protecting us from bad guys is one of the state’s genuinely unavoidable responsibilities. And the cost of more prison places has to be weighed against the cost of crime, which even the mushy Home Office puts at some £60 billion pa.

In an ideal world I’m sure we’d all like to believe in the redemption of miserable sinners. It’s just that we don’t actually know how to arrange it in this less than ideal world.

All we can do down here is bang 'em up.

Either that, or hang 'em up.

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