Fewer prisoners, fewer prison places

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.


  1. Paul - Worcester
    January 25, 2010

    John – from a police officers perspective prison works if the criminal justice system works, but for a number of years it has failed. The problem is that offenders are in and out of that revolving door. They need to be given an appropriate punishment and they serve their full sentence.

    In my experience their is little deterrent any more and those that commit crime know that. It is also pie in the sky to think that most offenders can and will pay a victim back for the damage that they have caused.

    Police officers have become resigned to the fact that the Crown Prosecution Service is overloaded in parts of the country. The courts are told not to imprison people because the jails are full.

    Victims, witnesses and even offenders have one thing in common, they are let down by the system.

    1. Richard Watts
      January 27, 2010

      If prison works why not adopt the American system of harsh justice, I was amazed at how long their sentences were, what a truly awful places their prisons are not to mention the three strikes rule – look at all the success the Americans have had with this harsh penal system, crime is almost at zero … isn't it? …. and Capital Punishment, has in the states where it is carried out practically eliminated murder hasn't it? – I think not!

      "From a Police Officers perspective" I'd rather look at crime prevention, rather than punishment. That won't happen when I do my civic duty call the police and they fail to attend, a day later they call and say do you still want a Police Officer to attend. On that example the following Monday (a bank holiday) no less than 6 Police Officers were gathered during daytime hours outside the local village pub, Merseyside Police on double time! – however Thames Valley are no better after being the victim of two serious crimes in Reading the Police attitude was "well even if we catch them they'll just get fine", in other words it's not worth our time – that's my time because I pay the taxes that pay your wages! OK Officer..

      It's far from the failure of the Criminal Justice System – we are all paying the price of some private war between the Police and Government – you'd all better wise up as we the tax payer are fed up of picking up the tab for that – I'd rather dismantle the current police force and start a new, fresh faces fresh ideas a force of problem solvers not creators.

      Prevention NOT! Punishment – Police officers should be on the streets not moaning about paperwork – some of you lot should work in the private sector then you'd learn what a gripe was about. Bosses dropping more and more paperwork on you? We call them corporate seagulls they fly in squawk a lot, S**T over everyone and then fly off … It's not just the Police force believe me

  2. bill
    January 25, 2010

    Agreed. We also have too many foreign prisoners and prisoners on remand.

  3. waramess
    January 25, 2010

    Little bit radical for the current leadership but it does represent a most obvious way forward.

    All that's needed now is to get the right type into the Tory leadership and we might also get a de-nationalised NHS and de-nationalised education also.

    Just imagine of how many of our problems could be resolved with just a little bit of common sense.

  4. Norman
    January 25, 2010

    I must be completely out of touch with things. I assumed this happened as a matter of course. If someone commits a fraud and he/she has assets is it not the case that those assets are seized to cover the amount of fraud committed as a matter of course? Surely this must be the case otherwise someone could commit a fraud, use the money to buy a car and end up keeping the car (they could say that the car was bought with legimate funds and the fraud money frittered away on whatever) – if this is the case then the world really has gone mad.

    The court fees, etc. I reliase no one pays (well, the tax payer pays them) and I'm not really sure about that one. If someone steals £10 of make up from Boots they could end up with a bill of £1000 – certainly a deterrent but it does seem a bit draconian but if this country needs anything it is that we accept more personal responsibility for our actions.

    Burglars / thieves I would have expected the same thing to happen although I imagine a high proportion of burglaries are committed by people with drug convictions and so you'd be throwing good money after bad chasing them.

    I actually hold a radical view on criminals in that if someone has a long standing drug addiction (say 10 years+) rather than cycling them in and out of jail for burglary / non-payment of fines / etc. I think we should just give them what they want. I realise this will never happen as the left will fear a Brave New World type situation where large numbers are dependent on Soma and the right will never want to be seen to encourage drug addiction.

    1. Robert K, Oxford
      January 25, 2010

      If the sale and consumption of narcotics were to be decriminalised then at a swoop we would be rid of a mass of criminal activity. I see no reason why someone else should proscribe my choice to consume life-threatening substances. Alcohol and tobacco are quite rightly legal (and quite wrongly taxed extortionately) and there is no reason that narcotics should not be freely available to adults.

      1. Stewart Knight
        January 26, 2010

        Total myth and fallacy.

        I suppose you will claim that there is no alcohol problem because it is legal and freely available? The myth of decriminalisation has been debunked many times. The problem is that over the past decades since WW2 drug punishments have been made more liberal to the point, now, where most things short of hard dealing is acceptable. Look at(people-ed) like George Michael who can be caught repeatedly under the influence of drugs while driving and further, but he is still feted as an upstanding role model and given more air time than most, mainly on state TV.

        Give them hard labour and make the punishment so severe it keeps them away from decent folk, and if that means more jails, then so be it, and make them pay their way.

        1. waramess
          January 26, 2010

          Noody suggests that the legalisation of drugs would get rid of the drugs problem, simply that nothing at all is achieved and much periferal damage is caused by making it illegal.

          The myth and fallacy I'm afraid is all yours

      2. Stuart Fairney
        January 26, 2010

        Yep, exactly right, it is estimated about 65% of all crime is drug related, so setting aside the powerful civil liberties arguments, if we could do something to reduce crime by this much and free up jail space for burglars and muggers, we really should.

        Again, don't expect this to be even be discussed in the forthcoming pantomime of no-difference Butskillism masquerading as an election of change and choice, despite the fact that many of the major players indulged in their student days.

      3. John Ward
        January 29, 2010

        All of you should read a book entitled "Gangs" by Tony Thompson, an undercover reporter for The Observer. In it he talks to a low-level dealer who discusses the legalisation of cannabis and how it would not work.
        For my own analogy, put drugs not alongside alcohol or tobacco but think about other consumer items such as TV sets or mobile telephones. People want these things, but they are expensive. There are other people out there who hijack lorry loads of these at gunpoint, terrorising the driver, tie him up and abandon him miles from anywhere. The consignment is then divided up amongst the group, sold on in ever decreasing numbers to fences and other petty criminals who eventually offer you the latest LCD HD Ready Flat Screen for £150 cash, no questions asked, no what I mean? If you accept it, you to are breaking the Law, but you otherwise wouldn't be able to afford going to Curry's and paying the 700 quid retail price. So you buy it.
        Now, a heavily guarded consignment of Government cultivated, legal cannabis is being transported. Because of it's recent legalisation, the production, storage, transport and point of sale costs have sent the price of it soaring to about ten times the price it was pre-legalisation. The convoy is hijacked by a heavily armed, organised gang. Shots are fired and two of the motorcycle outriders are killed. The gang gets away with the entire 2 tonne consignment. A few weeks later, someone in your local pub offers you an eighth of grass. Since being legalised and State controlled, you haven't been able to afford it and by God, you could do with a puff after the week you have had. And your mates will cover you in Kudos. The price offered is a quarter of what the current price is, hugely more expensive than pre-legalisation, but attractive nevertheless. So you buy it.
        Want to stop the Drugs problem? Reform of the Judiciary and sentencing guidelines for smuggling/supply of all illegal drugs. Make 5 Years mean five Years. Make Prison a hugely unattractive place to go, re-introduce hard labour and turn off the hot and cold running Playstation. That will empty them in record time and ensure a good percentage of cons don't want to go back. Enforced rehabilitation for addicts who commit crime to feed their habits.
        Instead of enthusing about what YOU would do, listen.
        Especially to someone such as myself, a serving Customs Officer of 23 Years who has seen things you really, really wouldn't want to see, but still think you have an opinion on.

        1. Robert K, Oxford
          February 3, 2010

          If you are right that the price would rise tenfold then you should support legalisation, as this would give the effect you desire of reduced consumption. (Assuming perfect price elasticity, an increase in the price of 1000% would lead to a drop in consumption of 90%.)
          However, I suspect that you are wrong and that removing distortions and inefficiencies from the supply chain would cut the price and raise the quality of the products reaching the market. Rather than being imported illegally, with the costs associated with that, most narcotics would probably be grown and sold domestically. This would shorten the supply chain, making it less vulnerable to hijacking. In any event, as prices would fall, the produce would be no more attractive to hijackers than a truck, say, of strawberries.
          Now, you will argue that lower prices and higher quality is likely to lead to higher consumption and thus narcotics-related problems, and this may well be true. However, you or I have no moral right to tell another person what products they may or not consume through their own free will. These choices are inalienable human rights, irrespective of the misery they may cause.
          It seems that you favour locking up drug users in ultra-nasty prisons. Here, I have to disagree. If someone is unfortunate enough to be addicted to drugs, surely they need medical help and therapy, not incarceration? Surely prison, where drug use reportedly is rife, is absolutely the last place they should be.

    2. Andrew
      January 25, 2010

      The Director of the Howard League for Penal Reform, Frances Crook, has blogged in response to John's comments at http://www.howardleague.org/francescrookblog/john

  5. Stronghold Barricade
    January 25, 2010

    I think you need to look outside the box, and look at more innovative solutions

    I am all for restitution, and a certain amount of "public payback" like the litter picking and grave yard care

    But why can't we use the lower wages in other parts of the European union? Why can't we ship our prisoners to their prisons and pay them to keep them for us? They are bound by the same EU laws, but presumably we might even be able to get three inmates for the price of one in this country

    Failing that, we have a presence in Afghanistan, where if we put criminals I wouldn't even think we'd need bars or guards unless they posed a credible escape risk, and then they'd have no passport either. Fairly obviously they wouldn't be armed either.

    We also have Iceland which supposedly owes us vast amounts of money, so why can't they look after our criminals until their sentence is over in a quid pro quo?

    The answer is out there, and I do not believe that shortening sentences or the deterrent is the answer. If anything, in "Broken Britain" you need to reinforce the core social values

    1. Old Slaughter
      January 26, 2010


  6. Mark
    January 25, 2010

    Your object all sublime – to make the punishment fit the crime – is all well and good so far as it goes. The real problem with prison is that most prisons are in fact universities of crime, kept from rioting by a supply of drugs to pacify the inmates. Recidivism rates are high. Prison isn't working. I have some sympathy with Alan Duncan's reported remarks, although I don't profess to know how to solve the problems.

  7. Brian Tomkinson
    January 25, 2010

    I can't see your idea working. Is it not the case that many don't even pay their fines or can take forever to do so? What hope is there that those who prefer to steal rather than work for what they want will suddenly work harder, or at all, to compensate for their malevolence? Sounds more like a woolly LibDem idea to me. Now, if prisons were made into commercial workplaces you might get your money back but if they were run by government you certainly wouldn’t.

    1. Robert K, Oxford
      January 25, 2010

      If a criminal refused to compensate his victim then he should be forced to work until he has paid off his debt. Commercial prisons sounds like a good idea to me.

      1. alan jutson
        January 25, 2010


        There are already Commercial Companies who have designed, built and run Prisons and Detention Centres.

        There are already Commercial Companies who undertake Court escort duties and Electronic tagging.

        They are all funded by the Home Office, and I am led to believe they are rather more competitive on cost per prisoner, than those who are looked after by the Home Office direct establishments.

        So there really is no barrier to us getting more capacity, other than the time taken for Tendering, Planning and building more establishments.

        Sorry to all those who think prison does not work, but if we had proper sentencing, and a bit less of the Civil Rights, and Politically correct argument, we may just find out that it may work a little better.

        Yes of course we need retraining, rehabilitation and all of the other positive tghings to try and encourage those who have been sent to jail to mend their ways. But you also need a deterent as well.

        At least when they are in detention, they cannot commit further crime.

        Letting Prisoners out early because we have lack of capacity is just a sick joke on the victims of their crimes.

        1. Robert K, Oxford
          January 26, 2010

          Sorry, let me be clearer. Yes, there are several privately run prisons, which I understand are at least as humane and efficient as state run institutions (I suspect much more so, but I can't say for sure). What I meant was prisons where criminals have to engage in remunerated work that allows them to pay compensation to their victims. The practicalities would be daunting, no doubt, but the important bit is to switch the debate onto the victims of crime. At the moment, the criminal justice system reacts as if the state is the entity that has suffered at the hands of the criminal, whereas in fact it is the victim of the crime who deserves restitution.

  8. Andy
    January 25, 2010

    I understand your sentiment, but I think Bastiat had the answer here. That which is seen is the cost of the criminal in prison. That which is not seen is all the crimes they didn't commit.

    You make the assumption that there are two possibilities in your car thief example: thief in prison, not paying for your replacement; or thief not in prison, as a productive member of society contributing to the cost of replacing your vehicle. That's a lovely theory, but I suspect that in the majority of cases it is actually secret option 3: thief not in prison, stealing more cars. There are very few bank managers out stealing cars. The only people who have the resources to pay for a replacement car are those who won't be stealing cars anyway.

    I cannot find the reference now, but I'm fairly sure it was a home office estimate (and you are in a better position than I to get such figures), that 95% of serious crime (i.e. not the newCrime that labour has invented) is committed by 100,000 people. Combine this with the fact that we have about 120,000 prison places and I have to wonder why we don't just lock those 100,000 up. I wonder how much money that would save the country?

    You need only read a few police blogs to see that the police service know that this is the case — the vast majority of their time is spent dealing with useless arguments between members of the "underclass" (their word not mine).

    Want an idea for government? Get rid of all the laws that turn essentially productive members of society into criminals. Stop protecting the rights of the criminal over the rights of the victim. Never mind "tough on the causes of crime", that has failed. I will settle for "tough on criminals". If I am honest with myself (and I am a law-abiding citizen) I don't think that the police are on my side. I think that the fact that I have a fixed address, a job, a registered car, a drivers license, and paid up insurance just makes me an easier target for keeping detection figures high; that should I ever have a run in with the law, I will find that my life will be destroyed — because I actually have one to take. Where a criminal to break into my home, and I injured him protecting my family; I wonder if calling the police would be the best thing for me to do?

    I wonder how many others like me feel the same way? Fix that problem, and not only will you get more votes, you will be well on the way to fixing broken Britain.

    1. Mark
      January 25, 2010

      There are a couple of points I would make. Firstly, I believe that there is a significant population that drifts in and out of prison which previous generations would have institutionalised as mentally ill rather than inherently evil: prison is not the right solution for them yet "care in the community" fails them utterly. Secondly, the policies of the present government seem calculated and successful in growing the numbers who form the criminal class you describe. Lack of discipline in education and in the home is where this starts and the benefits culture is where it festers and breeds.

      1. Andy
        January 25, 2010

        Thank you for your reply.

        I'm afraid that I'm of the opinion that what you say is a series of truisms. Obviously mentally ill people should not be in prison. Obviously crime comes from being uneducated and not being given a good upbringing. Now… how does any of that help with people who are in actual physical danger today.

        Mental illness is a terrible affliction. Those who are genuinely mentally ill should not be held responsible for their actions. However, that line of thinking seems to have been taken too far. If there is a justifiable reason why you are a horrendous criminal — you came from a broken family, you didn't work hard at school, you fell into alcohol and drug abuse — then that is treated just like a mental illness would be, and you are not held responsible.

        That is obviously utter nonsense. The test is — did you know you were committing a crime? Do you understand the difference between right and wrong? The answer is demonstrably "yes" in almost all cases. If you run from the police, if you lie in court, even the act of trying to give mitigating circumstances, all indicate someone who knows that they have done wrong.

        Here's the sneaky little trick that politicians never mention when they talk about prisons. Prisoners, on release, are likely to reoffend. This is used as justification that prisons don't work. However, an almost identical proportion of criminals who aren't put in prison reoffend. Given the choice then, I'd rather they were in prison.

        1. james harries
          January 25, 2010

          I liked your learnèd reference to Bastiat. (Who he?) But we don't need to be so obscure: We hang men not for stealing horses, but so that horses are not stolen. (lord Stanley, roughly 1750?)

    2. Stuart Fairney
      January 26, 2010

      I don't think your figures are correct, I heard John Reid (I think) quoting figures of 80,000 prison places and 100,000 persistent offenders. This is the issue I believe. You always have 20,000 criminals running around.

      We are also an astonishingly criminalised society, jailing fewer people per capita crime than any European country except Sweden. Again, prison really can work if we have enough places, long, long sentences and a willingness to jail people early in their offending careers.

  9. Sir Graphus
    January 25, 2010

    Don't worry. If someone stole your car, the police would find it hard to find the resources to catch the thief. They would give you plenty of literature advising ways of avoiding car theft in the future (careless you, you left your car in the wrong place). So no need to worry about the cost of prison in that example.

    Mind you, if you take a picture of a pretty church in central London, you'll have a van full of her Majesty's finest upon you like an instant tsunami.

  10. English Pensioner
    January 25, 2010

    One problem seems to be that most of the offenders are on assistance of some form or other and have no money. Even if you dock their money at source, you will be accused of making people starve, or making the innocent children suffer. I'm sorry, but except in the case of the odd person convicted of fraud or so-called white collar crime, I don't think your approach will work.

    To me the best approach would be to make prison far, far more uncomfortable so that they would not want to go there again.
    We also need to stop the serial offenders; I'm all for giving someone a second chance, but not any more than that. The burglar who was said to be injured in the recent self-defence case had a whole string of convictions but apparently had never been sent to prison. Why?

  11. Stewart Knight
    January 25, 2010

    hey should be made to pay the costs of the police and judicial system in handling and prosecuting their case.

    ALL criminals should pay the cost of their crimes, same for if they are incarcerated. If that means a lot term debt, then fine. This Government introduced charges over a long period for peoples education, and they are productive, so why shouldn't criminals pay?

  12. toryanorak
    January 25, 2010

    I agree that Labour have brought in many unnecessary laws. However I don't know how many of them attract a prison sentence. Of those that do, how many people have actually been convicted and sent to prison?

    I can't think of which specific laws these would be, so I would be very pleased if Mr. Redwood (or one of us blog readers) would elaborate on this point.

  13. Robert K, Oxford
    January 25, 2010

    Absolutely. The current setup is a farce. A criminal offends against a citizen who is then forced to pay for the prosecution and then incarceration of the offender. The citizen gets no reparation unless he or she is covered by their own insurance. When we were burgled some years ago, the police made it quite clear that they had no expectation of catching the burglar – their main job was to make sure we had the correct details to give to our insurance company. Thus honest people are penalised at every level whilst the worst a career criminal can expect is the occasional stint in state-funded prisons.
    A couple of suggestions to shake things up. First, insurance companies should be actively encouraged to take out private prosecutions against criminals to gain full recompense plus compensation. The criminal would then be forced to work until they had paid for their crime. Second, how about breaking up the regional monopolies of the police service? We kept being told that to solve major crimes we need a national police force, but I’d prefer to go the opposite way. Citizens should be allowed to choose the police force they would like to solve crimes they have been victim to and police forces should be rewarded in proportion to the satisfaction of their customers. Good police forces would thrive and poor ones would go out of business.

    1. Andy
      January 25, 2010

      Your comment has reminded me of an idea I had a long time ago.

      How about judges setting sentences by condition rather than by time-limit? "You will be released from prison when you have achieved an A grade in maths, science and English GCSE. You will get one attempt every six months".

      The requirement can be made harder and harder based on the crime, or number of offences. Exams is just the first thing that occurred to me, but there are any number of goal-based sentences that could be given. All of them addressing the very problems that the criminal will claim led them to be a criminal in the first place.

  14. Eric Rowley
    January 25, 2010

    Well said. But what about setting examples?
    What about those MPs, Lords & Ladies who have apparently "Obtained Money by making Fraudualent claims"?

    Unless the public see justice done soon, the rule of law & the state of politics is left in a disreputable state.

    Those who rule us MUST lead by example.

    Anyone obtaining State Benefit by such means for far smaller ammounts would be in put into prison & wait for trial as soon as they are caught.

    NB. "Justice to be effective needs to be swift."
    "Justice delayed is Justice denied"!

  15. Neil Craig
    January 25, 2010

    The problem is that such punishment requires the person to do it & that requires the threat of prison. I understand that Vietnamese prisons are easy to escape from but that sentences are automatically quadrupled which means nobody tries.

    The other problem is that some people, even if they wished to, could not do sufficient useful work – a 16 yoear old kid who steals a jag is unlikely to be able to pay for it. This problem applies under the current system to so that people who stel cars regularly are less likely to face a lifetime driving ban than many less serious offenders because it is assumed this would merely remove all hope of them ever growing into law abiding drivers.

    I will admit to feeling the birch would work but this would not be allowed by the EU & possibly not even by the majority of Britons.

  16. Lola
    January 25, 2010

    And, according to a lot of prison govenors, there are a whole load of people inside for drug offences who should really be getting treatment, not punishment.

    1. Robert K, Oxford
      January 25, 2010

      I asked a magistrate friend why it was that drug use was so rife inside prisons, given that they are illegal and that searches of visitors are routine. The answer was not comforting.

      1. Lola
        January 25, 2010

        …and the answer was?

        1. alan jutson
          January 26, 2010


          The answer is, drugs do get into Prison.

          I am given to understand that visitors, and Prisoners are very experienced in the ways of transporting, hiding and moving drugs around, and whilst there are also very experienced Officers and electronic equipment attempting locate and to stop such traffic, it is inevitable that some Officers by design fault, or incompetance, are not as thorough as perhaps they might be for variety of reasons.

        2. Lola
          January 26, 2010

          Thank you Mr Jutson

      2. alan jutson
        January 26, 2010


        Your friend will also tell you that Magistrates have also been told/instructed that they cannot now give custodial sentences to many youths who deserve it, because of lack of prison places.

  17. Toby
    January 25, 2010

    prison DOESN'T work, at the moment. And will not do so until someone with common sense can completely overhaul the system with the backing of the law.

    Building more prisions will not work, its not a detterent (sp?) and for years (under all governments) its been a disgrace, as the 'normal' people who vote don't give a chuff about the 'abnormal' people inside.

    I suggest you read up on real life in the inside.

    Ben's Blog would be a good start

    google it

    1. Andy
      January 25, 2010

      Who cares if it "works"? What definition of "works" are you using? Prison is not school, it's primary purpose is to punish for a crime. If it is not nice to be in prison, then that is its job complete. If we get rehabilitation, deterrent, education, etc, etc at the same time — great; if not — so be it.

      (aside: As I mentioned above though, the proportion of reoffenders is the approximately the same regardless of whether the sentence is custodial or not.)

      At least if the criminal is in prison, they aren't terrorising the rest of us. Read a few police blogs and you will hear constant tales about criminals who have been convicted five or six times before, and they are _still_ allowed to go free and commit more crime.

  18. no one
    January 25, 2010

    You know I've had about a dozen car stereos nicked from me over the years in the UK

    When I was living in Chicago I remarked to a friend that we all left expensive stereos in our cars without worrying about them getting nicked

    We concluded that any car stereo thief caught in the act in Chicago would have a high chance of getting shot by the car owner, his friends, or indeed the cops

    Getting shot versus the value of a car stereo made the gamble a whole lot worse for the criminal

    Consequently car stereo theft in Chicago is very low

    Compare and contrast to a car stereo thief in the UK, even if they get caught

    i) The car owner would get nicked if they so much as scratched them
    ii) If arrested by the police they would be back on the streets within a few hours
    iii) In court its likely they would get some "community sentence" which if they didn't bother to turn up for there was little chance of further action

    So it's the risk balance that needs to change

    The consequences of being caught nicking car stereos, and so on, need to tip the risks so far in the wrong direction that potential criminals don't think its worth the bother

    Then of course many of the folk nicking car stereos are funding a drug habit, and the ways of dealing with long-term drug use need to change, as they are clearly not working

    1. English Pensioner
      January 25, 2010

      My American neighbour asked me when he rented the house next door what all the yellow boxes on the walls were. I told him burglar alarms and he asked why we didn't shoot our burglars!
      He also said that his neighbour back home had shot someone trying to steal his car from the drive. The sheriff came along, recognised the body and apologised for not having realised the little XXXX was in town! He just threw the body in the back of his station wagon and said drop into the office when convenient, I'll have a formal statement ready for you to sign for the coroner.
      But then their Sheriffs have to be elected!

      1. Stuart Fairney
        January 26, 2010

        The figures for hot burglaries (ie when the person is at home) vary significantly between states which have liberal gun laws and those which ban handguns.

        Guess where burglars are more prepared to rob?

  19. Richard
    January 25, 2010

    People all too often consider only the 'gross' cost of imprisonment – about £30,000 per year.

    A while ago, Jack Straw commissioned one of the big accounting firms to investigate the cost of crime. Even petty criminals, like drug users who steal persistently to feed their addiction, cost the state an average of £60,000 per year. Medical care, social workers to care for their children, welfare benefits, police time, compensation for their victims, it all adds up.

    Keeping a drug addict in prison actually saves a great deal of money for the state.

    Of course, rehabilitation is the ideal solution. However, it's only successful in about 5% of cases, even with the very best treatment.

  20. A.Sedgwick
    January 25, 2010

    As usual you are writing common sense on matters that have been made ridiculously overcomplicated over the years.

    1.Heavy fines, compensation and re-imbursement for non violent crimes should be the first option for those who can pay. Those who cannot serious community service orders. Some offenders may need both.

    2.Prison sentences for women need to be closely examined.

    3.All foreign prisoners need to be deported, the current case of the Iraqi Laith Alani is PC gone mad as usual. He should have been deported after trial – used to be called banishment. Now our illustrious leaders are refusing to deport him after he has completed his sentence for yes "human rights" – barmy isn't the word.

    4. No remission or parole for sentences.

    5. The penalty to fit the crime is lacking in many judgements.

    I don't know whether Dartmoor prison is still operational, but we need more of them.

  21. Steve Tierney
    January 25, 2010

    I understand your point, John. And to a degree I accept it. But people who break into your house to steal stuff should go to prison EVERY TIME *as well as* paying the restoration amount you suggest.

    Anybody who has been victim of a burglary at home knows that – regardless of physical threat offered – this is a very personal and damaging experience. The harm it does goes beyond just the theft involved.

  22. Bob
    January 25, 2010

    Pie in the sky thinking. You may be a little out of touch.

    The people you refer to would never hold down proper job, so the debt would never be paid. Most of them are benefit scroungers anyway (remember the old saying "the Devil makes work for idle hands" ?)

    They need more stick and less carrot. If the cells are full, then remove the televisions, pcs and playstations and replace with more bunkbeds. We're far too soft and the results are plain to see. And don't let them have mobile phones and drugs while they're serving their time. Porridge should mean porridge, and if they don't like porridge then go without.

    They won't be in a hurry to go back and while they're banged up, they won't be thieving. Give it a try and see the crime rates fall.

  23. Olaf
    January 25, 2010

    Whatever happened to those prison ships that were bought and never used?

    Also I would agree with Lola (11:05) that money spent on an effective drug treatment program inside prisons would be money well spent. And money that would potentially be recouped by less re-offending.

    I would also suggest that prisoners are routinely drug tested and that parole or release is dependent on on them being clean of drugs. No one should leave prison an active addict.

  24. Tina
    January 25, 2010

    How silly does this sound? People that steal….LOL don't have money to pay back for their crimes. That will ONLY entice them to steal more to pay for the crimes that they were caught for. How does this sound….actually let them spend their sentences in jail and not be released until it is finished. Youth are the key to this. If the UK continues to be soft of youth and criminals, the problem will only get worse! They should not be allowed to be on any benefits for life only some type of training/rehabilitation while in prison. John Redwood must not know what it is like to try to make criminals actually pay money for their crimes….it just isn't gonna happen. It seems that the whole system needs to be thrown out and start all over again….this time with common sense.

  25. Martin Winlow
    January 25, 2010

    Mr Redwood,

    Regrettably, you appear to be living in cloud-cuckoo land. Surely the (rather obvious) reason most low-level criminals nick stuff is because they feel (probably rightly) that they haven't got enough stuff of their own and little prospect of getting any – no job, on the dole etc etc. How then, are they supposed to materially reimburse their victims? Your statement is as daft as the criminal's actions are… well, criminal.

    As someone else mentioned here, humans make decisions about breaking the law very simply. If they think they will get away with it they will risk it. If the perceived chance of getting caught out-weighs the perceived benefits they will give it a go. Often, of course, the decision is not thought through. An opportunity arrises and they act without much thought. This is where society fails them because as a society we have become so lax and liberal that the thought of punishment is so far removed from their consciousness that they act without considering the possible ramifications to themselves as well as their victims. This I suspect is why a 'zero-tolerance' ethos to law enforcement has worked so well in other Western societies.

    So, part of the answer is, I'm afraid, more prison time, not less. Now I know that all the fluffy lefties out there say "Oh, prison doesn't work. We need to rehabilitate these people, give them a reason to want to contribute to society not suck it dry". Well, fine. You won't get an argument from me that the probable root cause of their issues is an impoverished, possibly abusive, up-bringing but how does acknowledging that fact help their victims or make society better? It doesn't.

    So we as a society need to stop wringing our collective hands and having had their chance when caught the first time (or a couple of times if you must) they need to be punished – properly, fairly and consistently. In financial terms, again as someone else has mentioned, in the wider picture the cost of the extra 20 thousand (at least) prison spaces required would be more than recouped by the savings made elsewhere. And what price do you put on 'fear of crime' and the effect that has on society?

    Going on from that, if we really want to stop this constant cycle of criminality society needs to address the root causes of criminality. Unfortunately, that would require social engineering on such a scale that would not currently be tolerated. Fundamentally, a large part of the solution would be that if people want to procreate they would need a license. Drug addict? Sorry. We won't be reversing your pre-pubescent sterilization procedure. Can't afford kiddies? Tough. Proven criminal traits – no offspring for you until you prove you are 'better'! Well, you see the problem. Aldous Huxley and George Orwell come back! – all is forgiven!

    Even then it would not stop it all. But it would certainly go a long way to preventing any more Baby P's and a great deal of the cause of so many people starting down the slippery slope of low self esteem, dropping out of education, loss of any sort of job prospect and so on. Yes, I know – it won't happen in my lifetime or even for a long time after that but it will happen.

    Happy days! MW

  26. […] expenditure, he has concluded that too many petty thieves and fraudsters are imprisoned. Redwood argues: ‘The first is all those people who commit crimes by taking money or property that does not […]

  27. Geoff
    January 25, 2010

    Most burglars and many of those that steal vehicles are receiving benefits. The vast majority on JSA how do you propose that they pay the full costs of court action and compensate the victims?

    It would be the taxpayer who pays the bill.

    A much better idea is that the victims surcharge (tax) that this government has brought in should be paid into a fund for compensating victims of crime as should all the assets of those criminals where asset siezure has taken place.

    And don't you think these perpetual criminals are a danger to the public?

    Yes there may be a revolving door situation with regards to prisoners but you may wish to think about why?

    Currently magistrates have the power of 6 months imprisonment maximum. Every offender (except those on indefinite sentences) has the right to be release at the half way stage of their sentence (in the power of the governor) and with the early release scheme offering release 18 days before the half way stage a criminal sentenced to the maximum 6 months would serve 90 days less 18 = maximum of 10 weeks – Yes 10 weeks. How can the prison authorities do anything to rehabilitate in such a short period.

    Magistrates powers should be increase to 12 months saving millions in crown court costs and prisoners should serve the full terms not the hairy fairy terms they serve now.

    Then at least some action could be taken to rehabilitate these people.

    Spend some time in your local magistrates court get to see what happens there on a daily basis then you will be able to comment from a position of strength.

  28. Michael Gould
    January 25, 2010

    "They should make full restitution to any third party affected by their actions, including an element of compensation"
    Wonderful however I am amazed that such a straightforward idea as this is not mentioned in respect of the MP's expenses scandal. I am of the opinion that not only should they be prosecuted but any title they have is removed forwith and they should be treated under the above quotation. Is it not as always do as we tell you not as we do!

    January 25, 2010

    Too many people have vested interests in the crime and punishment industry in Britain today .
    The public purse in this area supports the lowest and the highest in the land in a symbiotic relationship which ensures wonderful synecures for judges , a job for life for prison warders , well paid publicly funded defence work for lawyers , a career which after only 25 years (less if you can get injured on the job) pays a splendid pension to police officers and bed and board for the wretches who make the whole thing possible.
    You are spot on in identifying the need for change but don't tinker round the edges , identify what is really costing us money ( a full prison costs as much to run as a half empty one virtually). As usual you will find the real expenditure is in paying for those who no longer work in the system or are being overcompensated for "protecting" baffled taxpayers from the underclass.
    I like your idea of getting better value for our money ,could you go a bit further and think up ways of getting us more for less.

  30. JohnRS
    January 25, 2010

    Unusually, I think you're way off track on this one.

    It assumes that a convicted criminal, even assuming he could earn enough to repay you/the sytem etc, would stick to the straight and narrow. I'm afraid that's, to say the least, unlikely. In the same way an addict repeatedly offends to pay his habit or a hooker to pay her fines, your criminal would nick my car to pay off. Thinking that criminals offend once then never again isnt realistic, it's a lifestyle like any other for most of them

    Lock them up, and then you don't have any further crime from that criminal for a while, a major benefit to the rest of the community. This also frees the police and courts up from catching/trying the same criminals over and over again and letting them go (probably with a caution or suspended sentence) so they commit more crimes and keep the system busy.

    If they do reoffend after release, lock them up for longer the next time. Repeat as required.

    On the financial side, you'll get some major benefits by doing things right the first time so the police/CPS repeat offender costs will fall. You should also dramatically reduce the cost of running the system by making prison as basic as it can be. Sherrif Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County has some good ideas. Finally you should get rid of the parole boards, if the sentence is 5 years, a prisoner should serve 5 years. You can always add on more for bad behaviour, good behaviour is assumed.

    Before anyone bleats about their "rights" they're criminals for goodness sake!!

  31. Andrew Johnson
    January 25, 2010

    Here is the latest cost of keeping someone in prison from http://www.parliament uk 26 Oct 2009

    For the last two years (2008-09 and 2007-08) an overall cost per prisoner including prison related costs met by NOMS (National Offender Management service) outside of HMPS has been calculated as follows:
    Overall average cost per prisoner
    2008-09 £41,000 2007-08 £39,000

    The overall average costs comprise the public sector establishments' direct resource expenditure, increased by an apportionment of costs borne centrally by HMPS and the National Offender Management Service; and the resource expenditure of contracted-out prisons also increased by certain costs borne centrally. This involves some estimation.
    The figures do not include prisoners held in police and court cells under Operation Safeguard, nor expenditure met by other Government Departments (e.g. for health and education).
    The prisoner escort service is included.
    In other words, there's more cost which they are not accounting for at this time.

    What an interesting issue you have raised. I'd like to raise the following points.

    1) What is prison for?
    Punishment, rehabilitation or a combination of both?
    A debate is needed with genuine facts.

    2) What crimes should carry a prison sentence?

    3) Currently the recedivist rates are about 50% for sentences under 12 months, in the high 70's for longer sentences.
    Draw your own conclusions as to what prison is achieving.

    4) Most of us have an inbuilt sense of what justice is.
    It could be argued that the majority feel that oftentimes sentences do not fit the crimes.

    5) For law and order to work , laws must be seen to be enforceable, police crime detection rates high and justice be seen to be meted out swiftly and fairly.

    6) In my view there needs to be a radical rethink regarding law and order and the justice system:-

    a) Psychiatric facilities, secure hospitals and suitable mental health treatment need to be available for those with mental health issues. This would take thousands out of the prison system.
    b) Many crimes not involving violence could be dealt with by weekend loss of liberty, genuinely tough community sentences, heavy fines, sequestration of finance and property as John suggests.
    c) Violent offenders should always be imprisoned, but supported to work out ways of dealing with their violence.
    d) All convicted foreign nationals should serve their sentences in their country of origin, or, if human rights law makes that impossible, in the nearest possible country.
    f) We should outsource all foreign prison sentences.
    e) Money needs to be spent on secure drug rehabilitiation centres. Again this would take many thousands out of the system.
    f) Pre-meditated murder should always carry a whole life sentence.
    g) Prison should be for serious crimes only.
    Debate needed as to what constitutes serious crimes.
    h) All privileges, TV, phone calls, gym, recreation facilities etc should be earned by good behaviour and withdrawn for bad behaviour.
    j) More finance and resources should be put into educating prisoners.
    i) More finance and resources needs to be available to support prisoners when they are released into the community.

    When setting sentences Parliament needs to consider the devastating effects of what is now termed "low level crime " and set suitable priorities for Police forces.
    Police Officers should be encouraged and or asisted financially by rental or purchase to live in the communities they serve.

    One could go on and on. You may disagree with all of this, but the point is really radical thinking and action is required.

    1. Kevin Peat
      January 25, 2010

      Point 1) Punishment, rehabilitation or a combination of both?

      Actually the first concern is to get the criminal out of circulation.

      The main point of the legal system is to protect the law abiding public in order that they can continue to make our society function in a civilised manner.

      At the moment it is we – the law abiding – who feel at odds with the establishment.

  32. Nick
    January 25, 2010

    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


    We need to jail these.

    First offence – they pay the cash back and work until they have done so.

    Second offence – jail.

    Third offence, sentence is doubled.

    Next offence – sentence is trippled.

    Next offence – sentence is quadrupled.

    This is different from three strikes where someone stealling a Mars bar gets life. Here if the jail sentence was a month, and they were a repeat offender, then some of the current ones would get four years.

    ie. There is a real need to remove them from society because its the small number of repeat offenders who cause the most damage.

    So the question to John is why not remove them from society to give the rest of us a break?


  33. Bill Old
    January 25, 2010

    Good sound, practical thinking as usual from John Redwood. But when are we going to here some of this at the top from Dave and the Gang??

  34. Jason
    January 25, 2010

    I would also suggest shorter but harder sentences for non violent criminals, days rather than months weeks rather than years. Prison should only be used for punishment with solitary confinement, no TV, radio, telephones or visitors. Rehabilitation should come after this punishment in drug centres, hostels or the community. If rehabilitation is not completed then the criminals should be automatically found and made to serve their sentence again.
    Violent criminals, those that murder, rape, inflict sexual abuse or cause permanent damage should normally be given a sentence of Until Death with no option of release.

  35. Mike Stallard
    January 25, 2010

    The left has done a crazy thing over the past decades. By using words like "unacceptable", "You need help" and "wierdo" they have managed to change sensible social mores into their own "liberal" way of life.
    For instance "Black Coffee" is a no no. On the other hand, being "gay" is virtually compulsory. Having a baby when you have no idea who the father is is "acceptable" and "a life choice". Staying married is boring and rather "Daily Mail". Being "vulnerable" or"unemployed" or taking expensive benefits, like housing, or medicines that cost a lot is now a "human right". "Religion" is bad because it is full of paedos and it causes all the wars in the world. Reading Dawkins on holiday is virtually compulsory, as is right thinking on euthanasia and abortion and other forms of killing – except of course when it is family killings by Muslims.
    What we need is a return to sane values and social stigma to be reserved for really anti social things instead of the left's diktats.
    Prison is not the answer for social engineering: what we need is social stigma.

  36. welsh mansions
    January 25, 2010

    But what if they just steal 20 cars get caught for one and then can just repay back on one car knowing having made a profit on the others.

  37. William Grace
    January 25, 2010

    Nice try Mr. Redwood, but the human rights act means you can not do half of the stuff you wish to do. Lets face it, they go to jail then they take you to court because they do not get satalite TV, or they stub their toe.

    If you want to deal with criminals you need to change the nature of how jail is viewed.

    How about changing the TV ads from people who show things and thus seemingly want to get robbed to one showing people coming out of jail with nothing.

    Scene – Local Pub, people having a good time.

    A man walks in…

    Everyone turns and looks at him.

    Friend:Hey Dave where have you been…

    Dave:Remember last week we all went for a burger after boozing all night long?

    Friend: yeah, great night.

    Dave: really? I decided to drive home, and I got caught, I've lost my job and everything. I should have been smarter, you should have thought to try and stop me.

    Etc Etc…


    Dave: I stopped to take a leak against the wall, I got caught. I lost my job, and have to go to court. Its going to be in the paper.

    Start showing people if they do a crime they WILL do the time. Why show things that punish people who have worked hard.

    WHY should we have to lock our doors at night, we should feel safe in our own homes.

    Second thing, no more police targets, and in

  38. Kevin Peat
    January 25, 2010

    If prisons were truly austere and sentences fitting then economies would follow. Fewer people would risk being put in them by committing crime – this is deterrence at work… exactly what we (the public) have been crying out for.

    As it is prison is a last resort after many offences (and those are only the ones counted) so the vast majority of people in them deserve to be there.

    As for the restoration to victims you speak of – what if these criminals don't have the money to pay ? ( I expect most of them don't have it.)

  39. Dave
    January 25, 2010

    I regularly visit an inmate serving a life sentence. The best thing about a prison sentence is that it removes the criminal from society.
    However, I think the current system is flawed at both ends.
    Petty criminals need to be punished. Corporal punishment in a public place, or a spell in the stocks for first offenders would be a start. I'm convinced that public humiliation will deter many from reoffending.
    The death penalty should be brought back for first degree murder and for terrorist offences. Other offenses such a paedophilia could also be added.
    Prison sentences could be fixed term but of variable severity.
    The worst the crime, the worst the punishment?

    The current system is no deterrent. The Police are more interested in fining miscreants in order to keep the treasury solvent.
    My friend is a lifer and agrees with my views, by the way.

  40. alan jutson
    January 26, 2010


    Do not agree with your concept on this.

    As has been said before most criminals commit crime to fund activities, because they do not have money.

    We have at the moment a Government Department which is supposed to secure major criminals goods (proceeds of crime) as payment back to the State for their crimes.

    To date the figures (reported in the Press) are Goods Siezed £10,000,000, cost to run the Department £30,000,000
    Not a good result.

    Criminals need tough treatment if you are to deter, and I am afraid we seem to be going the other way.

    Government figures suggest crime is falling, but as you know you can rig figures to read whatever you want, it very much depends upon what questions you ask.

    Most people now do not even bother to call the Police because of "whats the point" type of attitude, because the Police are NOT interested in minor crime. The problem is what do you call minor crime (Burglary).

    Perhaps you have been lucky and not been exposed to crime, unlike many of us who are blogging perhaps have.

    My experience: A friend who had his Son in Law murdered by an unprovoked knife attack in Reading.
    A member of my family who was attacked only recently (again unprovoked) by a drug fuelled couple (male and female) who tried to claw his eyes out with their fingers.
    My house being Burgled.
    My Car being vandalised more than once.
    Almost every weekend drunks walking past my house late at night causing a disturbance, either kicking holes in neighbouring fences, or attempting to destroy street signs or the local bus shelter.

    I could go on but think you get the point, No I do not live on a sink estate, but in Wokingham.

    Community Service for these people (if they are ever caught) is a joke, one of my freinds used to run and be in charge of such a service, and he had so many constraints put on him by his superiors that he gave the job up because he was not allowed to supervise then properly or report honestly, because then they may have to be sent to prison..

  41. […] coverage of suggested spending cuts on your blog is certainly thought-provoking.  For example, your post yesterday entitled ‘Fewer prisoners, fewer prison places’ had an element of underlying logic.  The idea was simple: let low-level non-violent offenders such […]

  42. Dan T
    January 26, 2010


    You have got to be joking. Have you met these people? They are most anti-social, violent wasters. You can’t hand them a court order to pay a fine and expect them to go to their piggy bank and buy you a new car, nor can you expect them to go to work and pay a third of their pay over until they have. They won’t work, they don’t care and they won’t stop being criminals.

    The point of Prison is not this new headed liberal nonsense about reforming the unreformable. It’s about locking up these dregs so they can’t terrorise the rest of us while they are there. That is not to say that they should just sit around all day watching TV smoking and playing pool, they should be spending all day getting GCSE’s and other qualifications. They should be released only after a long sentence that acts as a real deterrent.

    The average scumbag would think twice about stealing your car if he knew it meant 7 years hard schooling. About the only thing these people are afraid of. Yes I know that this would mean increased public spending not less. But on this particular issue I would be more than happy to fork out and another couple of hundred quid a year to pay for it. Or pull us out of the EU and pay for it that way.

    If you get the prison minister job after the election and cut prison places, if I ever meet you I shall be forced to be jolly well rude, which is a shame, because otherwise I have enormous respect for your good self.

  43. Lindsay McDougall
    January 26, 2010

    Whether your proposed method of dealing with fraudsters and embezzelers will work or not is highly dependent on the rate for catching and convicting. Suppose that I plan to embezzle £3,000 and there is only a 1 in 10 chance of being caught and convicted. The confiscatory penalty would have to exceed £30,000 – and I would have to have the assets to pay – before I was deterred.

  44. Mark
    January 26, 2010

    Reading the responses here it seems many would support the 18th century solution of transportation to the penal colonies. Perhaps a Hebridean island could substitute. The odd thing about transportation was the Hydra like behaviour of new criminals arising to replace those removed. It wasn't the answer it was cracked up to be.

  45. Kevin Peat
    January 26, 2010

    "Teach them that crime doesn't pay by making them pay victims."

    Crime will pay in that case as the vast majority of their offences will have gone undetected.

    A few variations on the title of this post:

    Fewer policemen, fewer prisoners

    Fewer possessions, fewer prisoners

    Most importantly…

    Fewer prisons, fewer prisoners

    You're sounding defeatest in the face of crime.

  46. James
    January 26, 2010

    To: The CEO
    From: A CrimeCo Shareholder

    There appears to be dissent from a certain member of ConCo.
    Does he not realise how valuable the criminal element is to our society, especially at a time of deep recession. What level of growth could he expect without them.
    At a time when the public are making do longer with their cars, teles and gadgets, what better way is there to encourage them to replace such items by allowing the criminal fraternity to take them off their hands. I call it recycling, good for the planet.
    Has he not seen our latest TV adverts reminding the public to leave doors unlocked and bank statements in view. Were not the younger members operating their own car scrappage scheme long before yours. Never mind about four pubs shutting up shop each week. I would ask him how much greater that number would be if it weren't for our workforce patronizing them to carry out our business transactions. Many of us work long hours,often late into the night, and are loathed by the public. And what thanks do we get. Threat of being locked up, in a nice warm cell, all comforts provided. There's no justice.
    At least that nice Mr Cameron is planning to look after us on our holidays, onboard ship.

  47. adam
    January 26, 2010

    Prisoners are treated better than any other member of society.

    It costs the same to keep them in prison as it does to keep them in a Travelodge.
    People who work dont have the same standard of living
    students at university certainly dont have the same standard of living

    Students dont get three full meals a day cooked for them. they dont get free accommodation. they dont get free playstations and televisions and other luxury goods.

    It shows how morally low the country has sunk.
    There have been huge changes in the justice system in the last hundred years all in favour of the criminal. If it carries on like this, law and order will break down.

    Whats the point of all the surveillance, police state snooping etc if you are not going to fund the punishment of the few that are caught.

    Step one is to take all privileges away from prisoners and give them to university students. Prisoners can have faulty showers and live on beans on toast and pot noodles.

    January 27, 2010

    We submitteed the outline concept reproduced below to an Essex MP 18 months ago but it sank without trace!
    We see a common thread with your own thinking.


    A concept from The Essex Boys

    August 2008

    This concept is based on the notion that penalties should have an element of retribution but should be significantly compensatory and should result with as little of a drain on the nation as possible.
    The following is an outline:

    · Prisons should be penal establishments which nevertheless are profit centres to undertake useful commercial activity as well as punish, retrain etc
    · So they should have real commercial activity as their base – manufacturing, service (dirty jobs etc) replicating but competing in the commercial world, paying union rates, incentives and overtime, bonuses etc
    · The penalty imposed at court would be in three parts:

    * A retributive element recognising the severity of the crime (because of the other two parts of the sentence this would be significantly shorter than currently)

    * A compensatory element – a criminal injuries compensation amount fixed by the judge according to scales and some discretion which is payable to the victim
    * A maintenance element which is a direct contribution by the prisoner towards the cost of keeping him in prison. You could add to that an element for providing family support etc

    The idea is that there is commercial reality to penal policy, the prisoner would be required to earn his keep and the compensation and would have the incentive to work hard for an earlier release.

    There’s much more to it but that’s the bones.

  49. MarkE
    January 27, 2010

    I know the present Conservative party are embarrassed by the mere existence of Jeffrey Archer, but on his release from prison he made a very valid point. Most of his fellow prisoners were totally illiterate, which made them unable to hold any but the least skilled of jobs and they were thus incentivised to continue a life of crime. If they could be taught only this most basic of skills their chances of earning an honest living would be vastly increased. By making the achivement of a basic (and realistic) level of lliteracy a condition of early release the prisoners would be incentivised to apply themselves to their studies.

    As for deterence; prison doesn't deter a person who does not expect to get caught. Get the police to concentrate on catching those committing the crimes the public worry most about (rather than those the government want to highlight, or political crimes); when we are catching most criminals we will see whether they are detered by prison or not and, if they are not, we can start thinking about changing the prison regime.

  50. no one
    January 27, 2010

    yes i think the average university halls versus prison accomodation should teach us something

    personally im still waiting for someone to get locked up for abusing intra company transfer visas, since i know 1st hand illegal abuse is routine im staggered that our system has not brought anyone to book, the contrast between business breaking the rules and poor individuals is dramtic also

    a little fairness, is it too much to ask for?

  51. Olaf
    January 27, 2010

    Maybe if we roll back 10 years of legislation to decriminalise 99% of us the police will have to give up on wheelie bin monitoring, Duck pond auditing and arresting people doing 61mph on straight bits of road at 4am or putting up a shed without permission from your local Neu labour stasi officer.

    Maybe then they'll start to look at burglary, murder, assault and rape. But then they'll probably want CCTV in every home to save them going into dangerous situations like outside the patrol car.

  52. John Duck
    January 28, 2010

    Instead of cushy prisons like now, bring back punishments like "the crank" + "The treadmill"… connect them up to a dynamo to generate electricity to feed back into the National Grid (earning money from it, so prisoners earn their keep & can pay back their victims).

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