Tuesday's comments in Oxford by the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers, offer yet more confirmation, of how out of touch elements in the judiciary are with the scale and seriousness of crime in the UK. Lord Phillips stated that a five year jail term "is a very weighty punishment" and wondered whether in the future the length of prison sentences may one day be regarded as shocking as flogging. It is apparent that he must have a nice address.
His comments fly in the face of a number of facts. Firstly, such is the low crime detection rate and the huge pressure on judges not to send criminals to prison that anyone sent to prison for five years or longer must have been guilty of either a very serious crime or else be an extremely persistent offender.
Secondly, his enthusiasm for community sentences instead of prison ignores the fact that alternatives to prison have proved time after time to be ineffective. According to the evidence presented by David Fraser in his horrifying book, 'A land fit for criminals', supervised community service schemes have a reconviction rate of 61%. The government's much-vaunted "What Works" scheme was even worse at 84%, and these reconviction rates are based on only the 5% of crimes detected and brought to trial. As a comparison, the reoffending rate among first offenders sent to prison is only 15%.
The hard truth is that there are some 150,000 hard-core criminals in the community whose presence is a danger to the law-abiding public. The only way of dealing with these individuals is to lock them up for a very long time indeed.
In 100 years' time, far from viewing a five year prison sentence with the horror we now view the execution of children in the 18th century for stealing a sheep, generations to come will be staggered how long the British population tolerated being used as unconsenting guinea pigs in a dangerous and futile experiment to find an alternative to prison - an experiment which already has cost so much in terms of theft, violence and even loss of life. They will be grateful that the UK Independence Party finally had the guts to stand up to the brainwashing of the anti-prison lobby and state the obvious - if you want a society where law-abiding citizens can live in safety, prison is the best place for criminals.
Bottom line is of course, Prison Works.