Friday, July 23, 2010

Prisons: short blunt shock

The Tory Justice Minister Crispin Blunt was quite right to say that we should lift the blanket ban on parties in prisons imposed by the super-authoritarian Jack Straw. Straw's ridiculous over-reaction was typical of the man who personified Labour's autocratic sledge hammer style.

Sadly Number Ten has over ruled the Justice Minister for fear of looking soft on prisoners. Although he was talking about Labour Blunt could have been talking about Cameron's reaction when he said; "At the slightest whiff of criticism of from the popular press, policy tended to get changes and the consequence of an absurd over-reaction to offenders being exposed to comedy in prison was this deleterious, damaging and daft instruction."

Quite what is happening in the Tory Party on prisons I'm not sure. First you have Ken Clarke saying that prison doesn't particularly work and now Blunt hints that a more relaxed regime might help with rehabilitation of prisoners. Sadly the party hierarchy has yet been won over to a more liberal position.

Interestingly Iain Dale came out in defence of Blunt saying; "I hope under a Conservative government that will change. Being tough doesn't just mean locking people up and throwing away the key. A tough politician will take tough choices - and that means locking fewer people up and devoting more resources to preparing prisoners for life on the outside. Only in that way will reoffending rates drop."

While, cynic that I am, I thought Clarke's suggestion might have been about cutting costs rather than addressing our failed and over crowded prison system - but there's nothing in Blunt's suggestions that were about cost cutting and everything about treating prisoners with a bit more humanity.

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