Ken Clarke asks the question
I donâ€™t often read the Daily Mail and cheer, but today the report that Kenneth Clarke is planning to cut the prison budget by slashing jail sentences was the best news I have heard in a long time. Also welcome was his comment that public fears over crime were overblown, although I am not sure that it is the public that has overblown fears, rather it is politicians who have inflated and exacerbated that fear.
It is true that some neighbourhoods are blighted by anti-social behaviour and the fear of crime is serious. But this has grown over the past two decades as social housing has created ghettos of people who cannot buy their way out. The right to buy policy sold off the best houses to the more affluent tenants who then often moved on, leaving behind people who were too poor ever to be able to afford a mortgage and those who were awarded the now rare tenancy because of their extreme vulnerability.
Otherwise, most people carry on their lives pretty much unaffected by crime unless prompted to be fearful by an hysterical tabloid or electioneering politician. Recorded crime has been in steady decline since the mid-1990s. Unfortunately, an incessant political rhetoric from government on crime and â€˜respectâ€™ campaigns on anti-social behaviour simply fed fears and perversely ensured that the public obsesses about law and order.
Mr Clarke is asking the sensible question: why is the prison population twice what it was when he was home secretary? At this time of fiscal austerity we all recognise that we need to cut the overblown prison budgets, but that has to come along with investment in managing people properly in the community so that there is public support and people feel safe. A return to the good old days beckons.