Ken Clarke's Justice Reforms

It’s still “silly season” in political news, so rather than try and analyse the finer points of whether or not Charles Kennedy is leaving the Liberal Democrats for Labour, I thought I’d use the opportunity to raise (briefly) something I’ve been meaning to post about for a while.

Ken Clarke has said that the rise in the use of prison as a sentence has often been ineffective, citing reoffending statistics. This has inevitably drawn criticism amongst the politicians, particularly since it leaves the coalition open to the “soft on crime” argument.

One thing that hasn’t been mentioned is the rate of child imprisonment and the effect that “locking up” young offenders has. Currently, out of every four young offenders released from a Young Offenders Institution, three will reoffend within two years.

Of course, those who are imprisoned in the first place are more likely to be serial offenders, but it is also worth noting that in a survey of those in YOIs, 90% said they wanted to stop offending [PDF].

This is just food for thought. The question is, is prison the real problem, or is this a misdiagnosis which validates the “soft on crime” criticisms?

Personal opinion? Prison isn’t just for punishment, but also for rehabilitation. With incredibly high reoffending rates, regardless of the number of actual crimes committed, prison doesn’t seem to rehabilitate nearly as well as it should, and is worth looking at again. Being seen to be “tough on crime” might be politically sound in the short term and grab the headlines for the day, but won’t do much good when an opposing party starts researching the numbers before an election.

Then again, maybe it’s just me.

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