A person in a prison cell is like a car driver in an A&E bed, it means something has gone wrong earlier in the process. All that money spent on driver training, road signals and signage, crash barriers and air-bags all wasted because there he is lying all bandage up in traction.
If I said I wanted to see more people in bandages in A&E and that I’d be happy to see them come back again over and over you’d think I was mad.
You would ask me what all the money spent on preventing road accidents had achieved, you’d ask why I wasn’t spending a bit more time, effort and money preventing people ending up in very expensive hospital beds after hurting themselves and others.
So why do we not ask the same about prisons?
Prison is unbelievably expensive, the cost of putting a teenager into Feltham for one month would pay for a year’s worth of fees at a minor public school. An when nearly 80% re-offend within two years you have to ask if this really is a model we want to expand.
Wouldn’t it be better to have fewer people committing crime? Wouldn’t it be better heading upstream and sorting these people out while they are still a nuisance rather that a fully fledged criminal? Wouldn’t it be better to make sure the people who are banged up at the moment don’t re-offend when they get out?
Ken Clarke today outlined a different vision for the prison system and I have a lot of sympathy for his position. Prisons are an important part of the solution but they are not the whole solution, yes prisons work but they only work at being prisons. Engines work but without wheels, a gearbox, bodywork etc. you don’t have a car.”
And just in case you think that this is all a bunch of nice words that will never work have a look at this, it is working already.