Thursday 18 August 2011

Prison does not work!

In the light of the devastation and criminality of the riots it is clear prison sentences for offenders are not just right but needed as a deterrent. Indeed I think some exemplary sentencing is important.

But what I also know from my 20 years as a youth court Magistrate, sitting in South London, is that sentencing must be seen to be fair, proportionate and free from political interference. Many of my former colleagues would wholeheartedly sign up for that , but some of the recent sentencing shows signs of inconsistency and unfairness. This is not good for the longer term. Our english notions of fair play underline society's acceptance of the criminal justice system.

And let's also be clear that prison does not work. The evidence; the majority of those who have been in prison are back there in a year. In 2 years the figure rises to 77%.

Given that our prisons were already full to creaking the sudden influx of more customers means one thing; less time and scope for rehabilitation work in the prison.

So whilst the recent bout of sentencing may act as a wider deterrence it is clear many of those we are now sending to prison have been condemned to a life of crime. It is particularly sad that many of the young people who are sent away will emerge to no support and no hope.

Yesterday's unemployment figures are shocking; especially in the growing army of young unemployed. As the Times editorial this morning says what is most needed in more jobs for the young.

Have we not learnt the lessons of the staggering youth unemployment of the 80s. Those people largely never got jobs and are the parents of today's young unemployed.

Government needs to wake up to the perils of the youth unemployment figures and take action. Many aspects of DC's speech in Witney were excellent ( somewhat odd comment on health and safety! But what the young people he was talking to needed was the prospect of a job. As Camilla Cavendish of The Times said , " get young kids into jobs, not youth clubs. ".

She has a point. Though I think both would be good too; because in the current climate kids jobs and youth clubs are both fast disappearing.

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