Howard League unerringly grasp the wrong end of the stick
One of the drivers for this week’s wildcat prison officer strike is the massive increase on attacks against them, up 121% in the last seven years against woman officers and 58% against male officers according to their union. However the arguments of Francis Cook, Director of the anti-prison charity surely get things arse about tit. Whilst she is right that, “the problems in the prison service stemmed from overcrowding and a lack of funds”, her answers to the problems are the classic knee jerk reaction of somebody insulated against the day to day reality of life in today’s Britain. But to suggest that “the government should seek to reduce overcrowding not by increasing the capacity of prisons but by reducing the number of custodial sentences in favour of community sentencing” as the Howard League does is utterly wrong. No instead of cutting funding, and it is astounding that at this time of all times the Government is planning to cut £60 million from the budget, there should be a serious increase in prison funding. Indeed we must launch a significant prison building programme.
Today the Sun reports that fear of crime has raised by over 30% in the last month and The Guardian reports that those being released early to relieve overcrowding have committed 56 crimes in the first month. Of course they would put it like that. In the article they state that of the 3,382 released early, 56 crimes against others have been apprehended (1.9%). A further 43 are on the run – a criminal offence by the way, but the Guardian doesn’t see it that way, (So that makes 3.3%). A further 27 have been recalled due to breaching their release conditions – also criminal offences – (giving us 4.3%). Which doesn’t seem too bad as a recidivist rate. But of course there are two other factors. Firstly that the rate of apprehension of crime was estimated by the Birt Report of 2000 as about 6% of the total crime rate, figures that tally with the exhaustive study completed by David Fraser in his book “A land fit for Criminals”. The real figures will thus be vastly more than the headline 4.3%. To be kind we should look at the 94% undetected and divide by 12, so lets (very conservatively) say that 8% have committed a crime so far.
Second that this is only in one month, the first after being let out early, and remember that the Government promised that no one would be let out who wasn’t entirely safe to release – tell that to their victims.
The victims should sue the Government under the Human Rights Acts for culpable negligence of their rights to live a free and unmolested life. (A few successful cases and the whole panoply of the act would come crashing down – hopefully to be replaced by something that actually addressed today’s problems rather than skated over them with excessive concern for the criminal).
No more talk of reducing custodial sentences, rather proper investment in the prison system. Proper discipline within them and proper concern for those public servants, the prison officers who are being attacked because of this governments obsession with the rights of criminals.