9th February 2016
Yesterday was a busy and perhaps significant day for prisons policy.
Frances Crook of the Howard League gave the speech a cautious welcome and Ellie Dunt, also of the Howard League, correctly observed that the most significant thing about the speech was that the Prime Minister was giving it.
There are three things worth noting about the speech and what may be behind it.
First, prisons are expensive even if “law and order” rhetoric is cheap. Wise politicians realise this and know that the current approach to prisons policy is financially unsustainable, regardless of what lines voters and tabloids clap along with. The current policy also makes no real sense from a crime prevention perspective and is best seen as one devised by a mischievous demon.
Second, there is a move in right wing thought against custodial sentences as the default punishment for crime, especially in the United States. (I wrote about this in 2013 at the FT.) This development in right wing thought may be having an influence on Michael Gove.
Third, if such a speech is indeed the political price Micheal Gove has extracted from David Cameron for support on the EU referendum issue, then it is a good bargain.
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