Harsh punishments, harsh conditions and longer lock up rates do not lower the amount of offenders going back to prison - Just look at the US figures for eg. What has been shown to work is effective rehabilitation. Two problems though. The first is financing it and the second is those whose attitudes are lock them up and keep them in appalling conditions. I await the usual comments about this approach being left wing, hippy tree hugging liberalism but the fact remains a hard right regime sadly does not work. I am not against harsher punishments and longer sentences - just an informed approach on what works and what does not.
We are not the US. First and foremost. They have their own problems, we ours. I'm not remotely interested in comparisons with the American experience. Secondly, there is hardly a bench mark in this country for determining that harsher punishments do not work. We have blindly pursued the soft, woolly liberal agenda for far too long. That doesn't work, either. Otherwise, we wouldn't be having this discussion.
That said, I was not necessarily talking about harsher conditions if you'd actually read what I say - I'm suggesting the system should be far more impactive in terms of properly punishing offenders at a much earlier stage in their offending cycle. What we have at the moment is the vicious circle of undue leniency, which breeds contempt, before the courts finally say enough is enough and lock them up.
I speak as someone who deals with the same people time and time again and feel I can say, with some degree of authority, that we have created a criminal underclass in this country consisting of some of the more feral elements of society, who genuinely and truly believe they are untouchable because they suffer no real consequences for their behaviour. They are given chance time and time again. Rehabilitation is all well and good - but what about nipping it in the bud? Sending out a clear message that such behaviour will NOT be tolerated. Might that not negate the need to rehabilitate them several years down the line?
Of course, it's all well and good placing undue emphasis on rehabilitation. But there also has to be some desire on the part of the individual to change their ways. It's not just the responsibility of others to change them. You would have to be incredibly naive to think that for many, criminality is not a way of life. Or that by the time there is a need to rehabilitate them, they have become so entrenched in the lifestyle they are a lost cause as such. And you can thrown all the money in the world at such people in a bid to get them to change their ways and it won't make a blind bit of difference. That's the reality, I'm afraid.
Whether you agree or not, we are simply far too soft in this country and I'm firmly of the view that's why re offending rates are so appalling. That is why I take such exception to what the Justice Minister says - he merely avoids the real issues and shifts the blame when, if truth be told, his government and others before it have shaped the very system he is now critical of as if it's all somebody else's fault. He, and those who have gone before him, are wholly to blame.