Let me make it clear at the outset before the spinners get to work. I think prison is the right place for anyone who represents a threat to the public. If people have committed acts of violence from terrorism to burglary with assault, they should go to prison for a good long time.
However, our cuts in spending need to be wide ranging. One good cut would be fewer criminals in prison. There are two big categories we need to look at.
The first is all those people who commit crimes by taking money or property that does not belong to them, ranging from the common thief to the fraudster. Surely it would be much better to prove to them that crime does not pay. They should be made to pay the costs of the police and judicial system in handling and prosecuting their case. They should make full restitution to any third party affected by their actions, including an element of compensation.
If someone stole my car, for example, I would like them to buy me a new replacement. I do not wish to pay for them to spend time in prison as well as being financially as worse off from the loss of my vehicle and the ensuing insurance claim. That’s a further punishment for me, the victim. The thief or fraudster would have to work harder and longer hours to meet the bills. Of course if the thief was unable and unwilling to work and refused to pay the bills then prison would be the last resort.
The second is the wide range of new crimes this government has dreamed up to pursue its political correctness and power of the state agenda. Many of these should never have attracted a possible prison sentence in the first place. Judicious changes to the penalty clauses – or outright repeal – would cut down the numbers of such offences.