Monday, March 03, 2008

Getting Real On Prisons

Falling behind- Labour's criminal record

We've been reading the Tories' new prison Green Paper. We like it.

We especially like:
  • Minimum as well as maximum prison sentences, with no possibility of parole until the minimum has been served
  • End automatic release so that no prisoner is automatically released from custody unless they have served their full term
  • Offenders to compensate victims of their crimes through contributions to a Victims’ Fund; those serving custodial sentences will pay into the Fund through work in prison (except what if they won't?)
  • Public sector prisons to be decentralised to become independent fee-earning ‘Prison and Rehabilitation Trusts’, responsible for offenders after they are released as well as in prison, run by a single governor
  • Prison and Rehabilitation Trusts and private sector prisons to be paid by results – with a premium awarded on a national tariff if the offender or exprisoner is not reconvicted within two years
  • Build more prison places- although an increase from 80,000 to 100,000 is still not enough

There's also a promise to "consult" on making prison governors accountable to locally elected sheriffs (or similar) rather than Whitehall. They don't need to consult- I've just asked around and I can confidently report it's what we all want.

The paper also highlights a number of facts about Labour's abysmal criminal record we should all memorise.

First, although Labour likes to claim it's provided 20,000 new prison places, that includes 8,600 places planned or commissioned by Michael Howard. And a further 3,000 have only been ‘created’ by doubling up prisoners in the cells. Labour's true prison building record is shown in the chart above.

Second, the lunatic policy of automatic release after serving only half the sentence was only introduced in 2003 (the Criminal Justice Act). Previously, those serving four years or more were not eligible for automatic release at the halfway stage, but were instead required to apply to the Parole Board, where their individual situation, the extent to which they had been rehabilitated, and the risk posed if released, could be assessed. Labour pushed through this soft-on-crime lunacy despite polls saying three-quarters of us want all sentences served in full.

Third, since the introduction of Labour's Home Detention Curfew scheme in 1999 (early release on a tag), over 4,000 prisoners released under it have re-offended. They've committed 7,119 crimes, including one murder, 56 woundings and more than 700 assaults. In addition, prisoners on Labour's End of Custody Licence - only introduced in June 2007 - have already committed over 300 crimes, including at least one murder.

Fourth, community sentences are now given to over 40 per cent of violent offenders, and in the last three years, nearly 90 convicted rapists have received them.

Tough on crime, it ain't.

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