Saturday, June 9, 2007

Britain - funfair for criminals

If someone breaks into your house and steals your money and possessions, and then is caught by the police, you want that person locked up for a good long while -- long enough to learn not to rob people's houses, preferably someplace far from where you live. Right?

Well, according to a senior prisons official in England, you're just being selfish:

Mitch Egan, who oversees nine English prisons, has called for all but the most serious offenders to walk free from court and be given community sentences instead.

She claimed the rising prison population had added to a feeling of insecurity among the public -because people feared criminals who were locked up out of sight.

"For me, prison is an inappropriate punishment for all but the most actively dangerous of offenders, and using incarceration at the current rates actively contributes to the fear of crime," she said....

Miss Egan called for a full debate on imprisonment: "We sanitise our society by displacing justice from communities affected by crime.

"Dislocating punishment from the community, allowing criminal justice to become, and to feel that it becomes, active and impersonal... this makes us all more fearful."

She accused the public of being "lazy" by leaving public protection to the police, courts and prisons, declaring: "Society asks far too much of the criminal justice system."

She also admitted prison chiefs "simply don't know" how to reduce re-offending, adding: "As a place where offenders are cured, prison makes absolutely no sense."

If that last bit is true, it's a failure on Ms. Egan's part -- if she's got a vision for how to rehabilitate offenders, she should demonstrate how to run her nine prisons in such a way that the inmates who serve their terms in them walk out to become useful, law-abiding citizens.

Unfortunately, the new Scottish National Party government in Edinburgh has pretty much the same mushy-brained ideas.

THOUSANDS of criminals, including thieves, housebreakers, vandals and fine-defaulters, will be spared prison sentences under radical plans announced yesterday by the new Scottish Executive.

Kenny MacAskill, the justice secretary, said he wanted to adopt a more liberal approach to penal policy....

Stealing a well-known line from Tony Blair, Mr MacAskill said it was time to be "tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime".

He said the government would come down hard on serious offenders, but it would concentrate on the social and economic problems that led to many other crimes.

"We will detain the dangerous but treat the troubled," he said.

On drugs, he said: "We must stop the situation where young people - whether because of low self esteem or lack of opportunity - shoot up and opt out."

He went on: "Our clear aim is to prevent and deter crimes. But those who offend must face the consequences of their actions."

But it was on prison policy that he was most detailed and controversial.

He said: "We need a coherent penal policy. Prison should be for serious and dangerous offenders, not fine-defaulters or the flotsam and jetsam of our communities.

"So we need to shift the balance, with less serious offenders currently cluttering our prisons sentenced to community punishments."

The minister added: "I want tough community punishments which will protect the public, help offenders turn their lives around and involve some payback to communities they harmed."

Wow, I never knew that young people used drugs because of low self-esteem and lack of opportunity. I always thought it was because using drugs gave them instant sensations of pleasure -- the same reason yuppies became the stereotypical cocaine users of the 1970s and 1980s, and why the gay community has such a huge problem with crystal meth.

I wonder what Britain will look like by 2012, when the Olympics come to London. Will the country have reached the nadir of social decay and fear caused by communities overwhelmed with so-called "non-serious" crime, or will it be past that point and into a law-and-order reaction to clean up the mess?

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