Every corner has been cut, every avenue explored, and now Charlie Falconer is going to have to stand up and announce the early release of possibly 2000 prisoners. The tabloids and the Conservatives will make hay with this - today's headlines are full of
burglars, drug dealers and fraudsters(Mail) which makes better copy than drunk drivers alcoholics and shoplifters I suppose. David Davis is talking about danger to the public, which is frankly nonsense. If someone is going to re-offend when he gets out what difference will it make whether he is released today or in two weeks' time?
The government's problems are entirely self-inflicted and should have been foreseen years ago. Act after Act has increased the number and length of prison sentences (none more so than the new Indeterminate sentences that are increasing at an alarming rate) and new prison capacity will not be on stream for years yet. If the figures had simply been wrong, the government might be at least partly excused but the whole scenario has been driven by the Blair government's obsession with pandering to the tabloid mob, and their constant refrain that only prison is a punishment and anything else is a let-off. At the same time no serious effort has been made to do anything about finding an alternative to prison for the mentally ill and the hopelessly addicted.
I shall probably wince at the press and political reaction to Charlie's announcement, because it is bound to be tendentious and unfair and will coarsen the debate yet further, but of one thing I shall be sure - he and his government deserve every bit of it.