I was pleased to see Iain Duncan Smith is considering prison reform.
Attention has concentrated understandably on the need to lock up for long periods those who represent a real threat to our future security, becuase they are likely to perpetrate violent crimes against us. To do this we need to have enough prison places to protect the public. These prisons need to be properly staffed and secure, to avoid the scenes of prison riots and break outs we have seen reported in recent years.
Attention should also focus on why so many people in prison are on drugs, unable to read and write to a good standard or otherwise ill equipped to lead a life based around gainful employment.
I hope the Review will ask these two important questions:
1. What more can be done where criminals have turned to crime owing to their inadequacies, to ensure when they do eventually leave prison they are better equipped to earn a living from a legal job rather than from shop lifting or drug dealing or the like? Can more be done to encourage them to learn employable skills, by only allowing reductions in time served if they meet suitable standards and are seriously preparing themselves for a life without crime when they leave. Is their progress monitored properly and sufficiently when they leave prison to try to avoid re-offending? A prison will work better if it is a school for going straight rather than an academy of crime.
2. Are we locking up too many people who do not represent a threat to society in the future and who do not need special programmes to get them off drugs or to equip them for a proper job? The Review should look at whether some who have committed a non violent crime should be expected to remain earning their own living, and be required to compensate society or their victim generously out of their income and maybe expected to give up some of their non working time to make a further contribution to society.