Monday, May 14, 2007

Voodoo Prison Shambles Goes Ritzy

Home Office prison policy altar

That nice Mr Nick Clegg, the LibDems obvioustoeveryonelesethatheshouldtakeoverfromtheMingerasap Home Affairs spokesperson, calls it the "voodoo economics of prison overcrowding". And you can see what he means:

"The Government faced condemnation after it was revealed that 77 prisoners had been forced to use cells in courts since the start of the year at an average cost of £1,800 a night.

Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman, said that the average cost of court cells was more than the £1,600 a night which is charged for a deluxe suit at the Ritz Hotel in Piccadilly, London.

The figures came as the prison population reached breaking point."

If that's not voodoo, what is?

Well, I guess sacrificing chickens and drinking their blood might also count, and faced with the current prison shambles, which of us can honestly say we haven't already tried that?

Cleggie's diagnosis is spot on: the government's attempt to chisel a few hundred mill by scrimping on prison places is costing us a packet; not just in Ritz accomodation charges, but also in terms of crime itself, currently running at about £100bn pa (see this blog).

Of course, his LD remedy is still way off-beam, calling for more effort to"manage the prison population", aka freeing up prison places by leaving dangerous criminals free on the streets.

And on that issue, today brings yet another sharp reminder of how useless the much touted tagging alternative is. When in 2000, the Home Office began releasing offenders early on tags, about 2.5% reoffended while actually still on the tags. But now that everyone's learned how to remove the things and generally get round the system, the reoffending rate has rocketed to 11.5%.

In the last two years alone, 4,000 crimes have been committed by tagged early release criminals. That's 4,000 crimes- many of them serious- that would not have been committed had the felons remained banged up inside.

But even if his remedy is wrong, at least Cleggie does seems to understand the problem. All he has to do now is to join BOM's call for a doubling in prison places.

PS £1,800 per night is an eye-popping £657,000 pa. That's equivalent to around 16 prison places (or 26 if they're at the Value-Buy Scrubs- see previous blog). According to the Major, his friend Mr Gomulka could offer virtually the same product for an astonishing 500 quid pa, plus the cost of a one-way ticket to the Upper Kama region.

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