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Ken Clarke abandons knife crime pledge

Tim Montgomerie

This is a very disappointing report from the BBC's Nick Robinson. It focuses on the prison system's failure to rehabilitate offenders and, yes, it's a real failure. I support the Coalition's efforts to change this by paying prison governors according to their success at cutting recidivism. But the report completely ignores the fundamental benefit of the prison system: INCARCERATION. So long as offenders are behind bars they can't offend. Of course we should attempt to transform reoffending rates but that is not the reason why Michael Howard's prisons revolution succeeded in reversing a decades-long rise in crime.

The Telegraph was excellent on this subject this morning:

"Mr Clarke wants to reduce the prison population by 3,000 over the next four years, by requiring the courts to make greater use of community penalties rather than short-term jail sentences... Many persistent offenders have already been through the courts many times and served countless community sentences. It marks the triumph of hope over experience to think they will not carry on offending if they are dealt with leniently... Figures published yesterday also reveal that the judicial system is already pulling its punches to an alarming degree. Last year, 2,660 criminals received non-custodial sentences despite having at least 50 previous convictions. The number with at least 15 previous convictions or cautions who avoided a jail term stood at more than 20,000. For Mr Clarke to argue that current sentencing is too tough is therefore preposterous. On the basis of these figures, it is hard to see what a criminal has to do to get locked up. The policy is being introduced to save money and the Coalition should admit as much."

Clarke-heel-#5 Crime - the failure to imprison and the threat to police numbers - is the Coalition's achilles heel and you can be sure that the pugnancious Ed Balls will be aiming at it.


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