Thoughts from an active pensioner who is now somewhat past his Biblical "Use-by date"

"Why just be difficult, when with a little more effort you can be bloody impossible?"

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Our prison population

As is perhaps obvious from my views, I take the Daily Telegraph each day, and on most socio-political issues I find that I usually broadly agree with their columnists. However, one that I cannot ever seem to agree with is Mary Riddell who today writes about prisons. HERE First she comments on the rise of the prison population. Hasn’t she noticed that the general population is also rising, and that it would not be unexpected for the two to go hand-in-hand? Apparently, the French imprisonment rate is only two-thirds of ours, but you have only to watch the French gendarmerie at work to see that summary justice features far more on their agenda than ours!
Ms Riddell writes that 47% of prisoners sentenced to up to a year are repeat offenders within a year, and that even more of those given longer sentences become repeat offenders. Her convoluted logic suggests that if you give them shorter (or no) sentences, the number of repeat offences will decline! The same would apply if you gave them far longer sentences! If  “life had meant life” in a recent case, there would have been no chance for a second murder, as recently happened.
She states that it “is unlikely that the British people are twice as bad as in the 1970s”, but fails to give any reasoning for this view. If you look at discipline in schools, where children first learn that (often encouraged by their parents) they can disobey the rules with impunity, it is no surprise that once they leave school they treat the law with the same contempt. She refers to “an era of falling crime”; yet even without newspapers and statistics you can simply walk around your home town and see signs of minor crime everywhere.
Finally she reaches the conclusion that we should do what the Canadian Government has done and amend the law so that no one should be jailed if reasonable alternatives are available. What on earth does she think governments have been doing since WW2? What are Community orders, Probation, ASBOS and all the other “initiatives” which have been introduced by this and previous governments but “reasonable alternatives”. Magistrates already are effectively prevented from sending offenders to jail if there is any alternative. How does she think that the young burglar who was recently beaten up by his victim (with the victim ending up in jail rather than the burglar), managed to commit so many crimes? Had not alternatives been tried?
What we need to make it clear is that we will try to be compassionate with first time offenders, but if they commit any repeat offence and we will come down like a ton of bricks. Multiple repeat offenders would be taken off the streets, and other aspiring criminals might learn that they can’t get away with it.
Of course the easiest and cheapest solution would be to bring back the birch. Many years ago when I was in my twenties, I remember talking to a long retired hulk of a police sergeant in a pub up in Shropshire. He used to administer the birch at a magistrates court, probably Ludlow. He was very proud of the fact that he had never had to administer it twice to the same person! Yet if the do-gooders are to be believed, corporeal punishment traumatises people for life, but I must say that I have never ever come across anyone suffering in that respect.
We need change, but this can only come as a result of proper sentencing and minimising repeat offences along with real supervision of those on probation, with the probation workers being given real authority to get on with the job and not having to spend all their time on case meetings.

In my view this was an artice unworthy of the Daily Telegraph.

1 comment:

  1. Are you suggesting we Ludlow folk are birchers? Mind you Bircher Common is just up the road!