That headline woke you up. No, I am not about to change my views on the Euro and European government, nor am I about to agree with Ken on matters constitutional. I just think he is making some sense of our overflowing prisons, of our ineffective criminal justice system, and of the need to achieve more for less in that crucial area.
I have said before that we send too many people to prison. Prison should be mainly for those who represent a threat to our personal security. It is the only place for mass murderers, rapists and perpetrators of serial violence. The public needs to be protected from such people.
It’s record at reforming or deterring lesser offenders is not good. In some cases jail itself can be a school for burglars, an introduction to drugs and confirmation of a life of crime for the inmates. It can make it much more difficult for the person on leaving to go straight and find a decent job. Finding tough penalties beyond the prison gates, and making criminals pay their victims for redress where they have stolen and damaged property might work better. Making prisoners work from or in prison is also a good idea, as long as the prison service does not drive firms out of business through offering cheap labour in the wrong places. Criminals should be made to work harder and pay more back than average taxpayers, not let off working altogether. It was their absence of the work habit that led many of them to a life of crime in the first place.
Instead of building more jails we ned to use the ones we have better, concentrating their places on the serious criminals. We also need to ensure drugs and other bad habits do not pentrate the prison walls. Where necessary prisoners need to be weened off drugs through a strong programme.