DESPITE their vast experience and knowledge of home affairs, Nick Clegg, Ken Clarke and Jacqui Smith’s joint call for the prison population to be halved will not be universally welcomed by the law-abiding majority.
After all, these three senior politicians were all prominent members of respective governments who always sought to legislate their way out of trouble by promising ever more draconian custodial sentences.
Significantly, they also don’t identify the type of offences that they would like to see treated more leniently, a major omission on their part. And this at a time when the Government is considering life sentence for dangerous drivers whose recklessness leads to the deaths of innocent individuals.
That said, they make a profound point when they say that nearly half of adult inmates are re-convicted within a year of their release from custody. Despite Michael Howard, a former home secretary, famously saying that ‘prison works’, it clearly does not in this instance.
And this is key. Unless a way can be found to tackle this culture of reoffending, the public will demand ever stiffer sentences, Ministers will accede to these requests and prisons will lurch from one crisis to another because of overcrowding. It’s a self-perpetuating vicious circle.