Thursday, August 17, 2006

Manifesto suggestions

The excellent Conservative Home website has come up with the novel idea of allowing its readers to submit brief policy ideas which can be debated and voted for online, presumably in the hope that they will end up in a future Conservative Manifesto.

I have put forward my first idea which follows below. Comments are welcome.


Policy Summary
All prisoners to serve in full the sentence handed down to them in the courts.

Policy Explanation
It is well known that few prisoners serve the sentences that they are given in court, but most people are unaware of how lenient the system actually is.

Most prisoners are automatically released half way through their sentences. Many are released on a tag prior to the half way point being reached. A criminal sentenced to four years imprisonment can be released after just over one year and seven months. A prisoner given a two year sentence may be released after just over seven months behind bars. Those who are not automatically released half way through their sentences will usually be successful in gaining early release by a parole board.

The term “life imprisonment” is completely meaningless. Over 50 prisoners sentenced to life imprisonment since 2000 have already been released. Some of these “lifers” served less than 18 months behind bars.

Under this proposal all forms of early release would end. There would be no automatic early release, no tagging, and the parole boards would be disbanded. Prisoners would serve their sentences to the day.

Political Risks and Opportunities:
Risk: Prison discipline would deteriorate.
Response: Prison governors use a range of carrots and sticks to maintain discipline – moving prisoners between different prisons, on different regimes, and allocating better or worse jobs.

Risk: If judges know that sentences will be served in full they may simply compensate by reducing the sentence they give.
Response: This could happen but at least we the public would know exactly how sentencing operates and if sentences are too lenient the government of the day will be put under pressure to find ways of increasing them.

Opportunity: People are angry. In South Wales last month, a child rapist was released early from prison only to recommit the same offence. This policy would prevent many such offences from taking place, make our streets safer, deter habitual criminals and restore some much needed public confidence in our system of justice.

Costs:
The intention of this policy is to ensure that criminals spend longer in prison. In the short term there would be a significant cost. More prisons would need to be built more prison staff taken on. It might be necessary to gain their support and cooperation by giving prison officers a rise in pay.

However these costs will not be as high as they appear.
By keeping people in prison large numbers of crimes will be prevented. There is a significant cost to investigating these crimes, bringing defendants to court and paying their legal fees. There is also a financial cost to the victims which is passed on to us all via the insurance companies. In addition it should be remembered that many prisoners, on leaving prison go straight on to benefits, therefore the real cost to the government of keeping people in prison is less than it first appears.

In the long term this policy could actually lead to a reduction in prison numbers and therefore costs. Sentences are so lenient at present that they offer no deterrent to hardened criminals. Increasing the length of sentences served could act as a deterrent and reduce the number of people willing to take the risk of committing crime.

However in thinking about financial costs we should also remember the cost in human misery paid by those many people, including young children, who have been raped murdered or seriously injured by criminals on early release from prison. We can prevent crimes like this from being carried out by prisoners on early release, and I would be happy to pay to do so.

7 Comments:

Blogger WillB85 said...

Bravo

5:05 AM  
Blogger C4' said...

Agreed!

5:12 AM  
Blogger Welsh Spin said...

Just a quick point.

As you rightly say, Prison Governors have a range of carrots and sticks available to maintain order, but there is no question that the greatest is remission for good behaviour. It would be crazy to remove this completely, especially if one wished to maintain any semblance of the reforming rather than simply retributionistethos of the prison system

6:03 PM  
Blogger Prodicus said...

Yes, but leave it to the governors, within discretionary limits laid down by Parliament. The greater the governors' discretion, the higher the value of the carrot and greater its effect in controlling behaviour.

10:42 AM  
Blogger Derek of Monmouth said...

Agreed David.
But if Prison were made that it was not a pleasant place to go, this would make the baddies think twice.
e.g. no Telly - work for privilages - confinement used for often for serious wrong doers.
Prison for a lot of people is better than they get outside.
Derek of Monmouth

3:44 AM  
Blogger Jeremy Jacobs said...

Leave the EU?

5:11 AM  
Blogger Jeremy Jacobs said...

Isn't it time we ran our own affairs rather than leaving it all up to Brussels?

G.Orwell !!

5:12 AM  

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