John Redwood on prison reform

I notice that John Redwood has suggested that burglars and car thieves should not be sent to prison but should pay compensation instead and that this would do more to help victims and achieve the government’s target of reducing prison costs. He makes the argument that victims are doubly victimised by having to pay the costs of imprisonment, and get no benefit from it.

I was randomly looking through parliamentary answers after having read his blog, and a PQ from 25 November seems to reinforce what John Redwood is saying and links to something that Dominic Grieve pointed out in his speech to our AGM. Almost half of the people sentenced to prison every year have already served three or more prison sentences. This is a slightly different way of looking at familiar statistics that show how many people are reconvicted of yet another crime after being released from prison, which we all know is more than two thirds.

So not only do I get my house burgled, my car vandalised, my handbag stolen, assaulted in the street and bag snatched, but I don’t get any compensation and I have to pay through my taxes for a failing prison system that pretty much pushes my own personal criminal into doing it again. And again.

John Redwood is right, we need a radically different system that puts the victim at the heart of the system, not by ratcheting up irrelevant punishments but by offering support and compensation and recognition of hurt. Restitution benefits the individual victim and the whole of our community.

January 25, 2010 · Frances Crook · 2 Comments
Tags: ,  · Posted in: Sentencing

2 Responses

  1. Jed - January 25, 2010

    it would seem the Spectator sees the sense in John Redwood’s comments

  2. Paul Slatter - January 25, 2010

    The idea that offenders do time in a State institution for a crime committed against a particular individual doesn’t make much sense on the face of it, does it? It presumably comes from the feudal idea that we all belong – eventually – to the sovereign. I guess, once upon a time, this de-personalisation was a useful way of combating the risk of blood feuds between clans and extended families ‘taking the law into their own hands’. Privatising punishment – like Redwood suggests – makes good sense inasmuch as society has moved on. That’s the slight note of caution I’d add… that society in some places still needs punishment to be depersonalised because of wider risks to public order of personalisation. And, of course, violent crime, hate crimes and corrosive antisocial behaviour still need a communal response because it is society as a whole that has been injured by them. But I wonder whether even in these cases and in places where privatisation of crime might be dangerous, punishment could be organised more by the local State rather than centrally. I suppose the Probation Service’s Community Payback scheme is an example of an attempt to make community sentences feel more ‘community-controlled’.

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