So David Cameron has pandered to The Sun again. If only I was surprised. After years of saying they were the ones the won Labour the 1997 election despite the evidence being rather different. The Sun can now claim to pretty much have David Cameron’s ear. The Tory Prime Minister has once more listened to the newspaper and decided to completely rip up Ken Clarke’s excellent prison reforms just to ensure that publicly he can sound tough on crime.
The Sun’s ‘Say No To Soft Justice’ has been running ever since Victoria Derbyshire decided to bring up rape in an interview with the Justice Secretary. The fact these proposed bills had been in the public domain for months is neither here nor there – once someone had brought up the word rape then the media and the public jumped on the bandwagon without even giving the proposals the time of day.
I wrote my most popular ever blog about it the day after entitled Ken Clarke – a trial by Social Media where I parodied the reaction of twitter to the interview in a court setting. It showed how reactionary twitter (and in all honesty most people) were to the news.
The media banged on repeatedly about the 50% reduction in sentences whereas in all honesty the only difference was giving judges more leeway. The current rules are a judge can reduce a sentence up to 33% for an early guilty plea. So the difference would only have been 17%. All crimes are not created equal and judges know this. It is a shame that the Prime Minister doesn’t seem to.
I’m going to put it out there right now – just throwing people into prison does nothing. Prison doesn’t work. All prison does generally is make softer cons more hardened as they are surrounded 24 hours a day by hardened cons and drugs. For the future the most important thing is surely to get people off drugs and teach them that a life of crime isn’t the way forward. Nipping their life of crime in the bud. That would be far better than creating another generation of big time crooks.
However by doing this people will think that you are being soft on crime. Too many people think prison is the answer to everything. It isn’t. Prison is in many cases the cause for a life time of crime getting progressively worse as they go. The more time an impressionable individual spends with a bad person then the more they’ll think the bad person is a good role model. It is exactly the same as a good kid hanging out with bad kids on a street corner, before you know it the good kid will be doing bad things. It is exactly the same with people in prison.
Yet again I go back to one of my initial comments – not all crimes are created equal and without a doubt not all criminals are created equal. Giving judges as much leeway as possible is a good thing. It isn’t soft on crime it is called being smart on crime. Yes it isn’t easy and some will think community sentences are soft but there needs to be another way. Maybe the creation of special short-term prisons which are a short-sharp-shock treatment for less serious crimes. Maybe giving younger criminals the option of jail or military service. Something has to be done differently as the status quo will not do the job long-term.
Whilst it may be completely clear that I’m in disagreement with this u-turn and liked the proposals a lot, what gets my goat more is the Prime Minister saying that the Lib Dems are soft and had it been a Tory government they would be tougher on crime like this is a good thing. The truth is that the Tories didn’t outright win the election so he can only blame himself for that part and whilst the Tories want to be tough on crime, they aren’t exactly smart on crime and that is a distinct difference. Unless things change then people will get into crime at a young age and stay involved in crime for the rest of their lives. Is that what we want as a nation? Generation after generation of criminals or do we want to find a way to get people off of crime?
That is the question we need to answer. Personally speaking we need to find a solution to stopping career criminals before they get into their career. Whilst these proposals wouldn’t tackle that problem head-on they were giving the people who understand even more leeway. Is sending an 18 year-old kid down for six months for burglery to feed his drug habit really going to do anything other than give him a few months with hardened cons who’ll help him on his path to a life of crime?
Justice is not only about protecting civilians short-term whilst they are behind bars and punishing the culprits. It is also about protecting citizens long-term when the criminals finish their sentence and getting criminals off of their path of a life of crime and into hard working tax paying citizens for the benefit of both themselves and the country.
It is better to be smart on crime than tough on crime.
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