Friday, 15 October 2010

Graham Jones MP & the Daily Mail article on crime

Following a Parliamentary Question I asked, the Daily Mail has run this article. My own view is that Prison does work and Community Payback has a place. The police agree.

However there are two major problems with both. Early intervention tends to be weak or non-existent and that extends to family, friends and peer groups. There is a strong case for something more robust, more positive in its outcome and less punitive that Community Payback, that stops short of prison.

Meeting with an employee from the Ministry of Justice he told me of a scheme that took offenders away on hard placements in remote desolate locations. Where teams engaged in challenging activities and where they were removed from the environment that feeds their socialised criminality.

15 October 2010, Daily Mail , Page: 01
(c) 2010 Associated Newspapers. All rights reserved

THOUSANDS of career criminals are being spared jail despite having amassed at least 50 convictions. Almost 2,700 were handed a community sentence after being found guilty more than 50 times before.

Incredibly, 315 offenders even received a non-custodial punishment after 100 or more previous offences.

The figures, seen by the Mail, also show more than 13,000 on at least their 30th offence received a community penalty – widely derided as ‘soft’ by critics.

It means offenders who are convicted of 30 or more crimes are 1,000 times more likely to be given a community sentence or a fine than end up in prison.

MPs and experts said the alarming revelations showed why Kenneth Clarke should be imprisoning more convicts – not fewer.

Criminologist Dr David Green, director of the Civitas think-tank, said even more prolific offenders could escape jail in future.

‘It’s all very well giving out community sentences for minor offences – but if you’re on your 101st conviction, then it’s evidence of being a career criminal,’ he added.

‘I would have thought a long custodial sentence would be appropriate for these people, who will have been committing crimes more or less every day for all their adult life. If they do allow career criminals to roam the streets, we can safely say there will be a rise in crime.’

Tory backbencher Philip Davies said: ‘These statistics show what a joke the criminal justice system has become. You have to work very hard to get into prison nowadays.

‘No wonder people have lost faith in the criminal justice system when we see people carrying out literally hundreds of crimes and getting off time and time again.’

But the Justice Secretary yesterday remained defiant over his plans to hand out community punishments rather than short jail terms.

He said: ‘Simply banging up more and more people for longer without actively seeking to change them is not going to protect the public. I do not think prison is or should be a numbers game’.

The re-offending figures, which are for 2008, were revealed last week by Justice Minister Crispin Blunt following a parliamentary question.

They show that the problem of repeat offending has been getting worse. In 2006, a total of 179 criminals were spared jail after 100 convictions – not much more than half of the 315 figure in 2008.

And whereas in 2002 a total of 1,200 had 50 or more convictions, that had soared to 2,670 in 2008.

Some of the figures were published earlier this year, buried in an annex of a document of sentencing statistics.

The Ministry of Justice document reveals that repeat offending is getting worse.

The proportion of sentences given to offenders with 15 or more previous convictions or cautions has risen from 17 per cent in 2000 to 28 per cent in 2008.

Graham Jones, the Labour MP who asked the question, said: ‘These figures seem to show that the “prison doesn’t work” idea put forward by the Conservatives is wrong.’

Despite how hard it has become to earn a custodial sentence, Mr Clarke is still insisting there are too many convicts sent to jail for six months or less.

He wants to replace these sentences – given to around 50,000 offenders each year – with ‘tougher community’ penalties.

Yesterday, he said: ‘The army of short term prisoners we have at the moment, who have a particularly bad record of re-offending within six months of being released, is too big and we’ve got to find some sensible community sentences.’

Governors say it will slash jail numbers by 7,000 at any one time – with some prisons closing because there are too few inmates.

The vast majority of those convicted of a range of offences are have been convicted of the same crime before.

Mr Clarke provoked anger among the Tory grassroots earlier this year by declaring that prison ‘doesn’t work’ – ripping up almost 20 years of party policy.

But he has stuck doggedly to the position that short-jail sentences are ‘ineffective’ and ‘absurd’. He says that – with 60 per cent of jailed inmates re-offending on release – the system must be changed.

The government is carrying out a sentencing review, which is due to report back within weeks. It will rule out scrapping short sentences altogether.

But community punishments are likely to be toughened by making offenders wear an electronic tag. Officials hope this will persuade magistrates to use the punishment instead of jail.

In yesterday’s speech to the Prison Governors Association, Mr Clarke reiterated his plan to encourage inmates to work a 40-hour week, in return for the minimum wage.

He also said he wanted to modern versions of Victorian prisons with a new focus on hard work and discipline.

He also said he wanted an ‘intensive effort to start developing drug-free wings’ in prisons, getting inmates off drugs altogether, and wanted regimes which prepared prisoners for an ‘ordinary honest life outside’.

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