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Ken Clarke opines that it is "loopy to think you can solve crime by locking everyone up"

By Jonathan Isaby

Ken Clarke black background Behind the Times (£) paywall today the paper's political interviewers, Alice Thomson and Rachel Sylvester, write up their encounter with Justice Secretary Ken Clarke, which took place on the day of the student protests last week.

On the general state of political affairs, he says that the Coalition "has the potential to achieve more good than a Conservative government with a small majority", adding that it makes pursuing his liberal agenda easier.

And that liberal agenda is founded on a belief that the current penal system is seriously failing:

“No one planned this prison explosion. It is doing harm. The reoffending rates are catastrophic. We have these overcrowded, dysfunctional prisons and we are not breaking the cycle of lock ’em up, let ’em out.”

He admits that he does not know whether his policy will reduce the number of offences. “Crime is also caused by social, educational and economic factors, but it’s loopy to think you can solve it by locking everyone up. No one can argue that what we are doing at the moment isn’t a failure.” 

He insists that it is a myth that all prisons are like hotels, and laments that prisons contain so many people who are mentally ill or have drink, drug and abuse problems, who will presumably be among the kinds of offenders less likely to be imprisoned under his plans. Thomson and Sylvester ask what happens if a mentally unstable, former inmate stabs someone to death after being released because of his reforms, to which he gives a typically candid reply:

“The first time one bumps someone off the fortnight after they are let out, there will be absolute outrage, but you have to explain to the sensible public that you can’t give an absolute guarantee. It’s about greatly reducing the risk of incidents like this happening. We can do that by providing these people proper treatment.”

Read the full interview in The Times (£).


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