Wednesday, 30 June 2010
Kenneth Clarke the English Justice Secretary will set himself on a collision course with traditional Conservatives today by raising the prospect of thousands fewer criminals being sent to jail. Reports the Times.
In his first major speech since returning to government, the Justice Secretary will say that short-term sentences are ineffectual warehousing at best and often turn petty crooks into serious offenders.
“Many a man has gone into prison without a drug problem and come out drug-dependent,” Mr Clarke will say at the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies in King’s College London. His speech will be a devastating criticism of the “prison works” policy first proclaimed by Michael Howard, then the Home Secretary, in 1993. The speech has caused nervousness in No 10, which is concerned that it marks a dramatic shift in recent Tory party policy on law and order. David Cameron was special adviser to Mr Howard when he first advocated the policy.
The Ministry of Justice is seeking to find huge savings in its £9.6 billion annual budget. Mr Clarke will argue that Britain cannot afford to build more jails and should use the economic crisis to reform the criminal justice system.
Here is that usual lack of coherence between what goes on in England and what goes on in Scotland. No doubt the above mantra will sound familiar as it is something that the SNP’s Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Kenny MacKaskill has been advocating for years. In Scotland the Tories jumped up and down at the very thought of not locking up minor malfeasants, as I think did the Lib Dems the current monkey to the Tory organ grinder in England. Do the Tories north and south bother to confer? Or don’t they care that they lack any semblance of coherence? No wonder a north/south divorce is on the cards. I’m sure that the Tory policy north was as a result of Tory attitudes south and now the south change tack without bothering to concern themselves with the north.
To be fair of course it seems that English Tories are not likely to be all that happy at the thought of drug addicts and the mentally ill being free to walk the streets of Tonbridge Wells. All the more so in light of Theresa May’s telling them all yesterday that 25% savings will have to be made in policing.
So is this a case of social democracy winning through? Are the Lib Dems finally going to act as a brake on the worst excesses of Toryism, at last? No sadly not they are just going to keep cranking that organ handle despite their support collapsing round them. The real crux of the matter is that keeping people in jail is expensive, and Clarke is right, putting people in prison for trivial offences creates a whole bunch of hardened recidivists and balloons minor social problems into major aspects of the broke Britain. Oh and of course once free these people become the unemployable underclass (or the lazy and idle depending on how you look at it) that spend the rest of their lives extorting dole out of the outraged of Royal Lemington Spa.
I have said that in order to make these people do something they don’t want to do (i.e. work where available) you will need a massive stick, no amount of carrots will do the job. But that is a subject for another post.