Friday, September 19, 2008

Prison Crisis - Fudge and Muddle

The Times has an article today about the continuing prison problem. The plain fact is that prisons are already more than full, that this prevents them doing anything much about rehabilitation, and that the authorities are desperately using every possible wheeze to let prisoners out, while pretending that they are not. The Home Office projections for prisoner numbers are near enough meaningless (I have unofficially seen much higher ones) and the proposed new prisons (if they are ever built) will be full on the day after they open.
As I have blogged before, a magistrates' court can impose a six month prison sentence. Most defendants plead guilty, so that comes down to four months. Release is automatic at halfway, so make that two. Then add the early release that was brought in as a response to the sheer impossibility of cramming any more bodies in, and you end up with about six weeks. No wonder the public are cynical.
It's just as bad at the Crown Court. I was chatting to a solicitor the other day about someone we both know who received a fifteen month sentence, and was out in four. That just makes a mockery of the system. Until recently a prisoner released on licence would be returned to finish his sentence if he reoffended in breach of that licence. Now he goes back for no more than 28 days, for no other reason than the fact that there is nowhere to put him for longer.

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