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Chris Grayling gets a relatively easy ride over reoffending rates

10 November 2013

Theresa May accepted her Spectator Politician of the Year award with the quip: ‘It used to be a joke that I lock them up and Ken Clarke lets them out, now they say I lock them up and Chris Grayling throws away the key.’ The right wing press, as Ken Clarke is given to calling it, is much enamoured with Grayling and May. ConservativeHome’s Mark Wallace describes them as the ‘dynamic duo’, and writes a long appreciation of their ‘increasingly strong message on crime’.

There is, of course, as Wallace concedes, more to governing than messages. The Mail on Sunday carries a small item about reoffending rates under the headline ‘scandal of prisoners who strike again’. 5 years have passed since David Cameron and Nick Herbert, who was then Shadow Justice Secretary, promised a ‘rehabilitation revolution’ and yet here we are. The Mail reports:

‘In 2011, 356 adult offenders committed serious violent or sexual offences after release from a sentence of less than a year, while a further 2,482 committed serious ‘acquisitive’  crimes such as robbery within 12 months of being released. There were also 37,804 thefts and 15,355 lower-level violent assaults by reoffenders.’

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Those figures are disappointing; and one mustn’t forget that the crimes for which offenders are convicted are a fraction of what they commit. In August 2010, the criminologist Ken Pease published a report for the think-tank Civitas in which he quoted an estimate that there are 130 burglaries per conviction. He estimated that crime costs the taxpayer £10bn a year.

The underlying issue, here, is the Conservatives’ failure to reform criminals to stop petty lags turn into habitual criminals. The Mail’s piece gives Chris Grayling a pretty easy ride (although, to be fair, he wasn’t Justice Secretary until September 2012). It’s short and sweet, and gives him the last word: ‘We currently have a situation where each year thousands of crimes are being committed by offenders who have already broken the law. It is little surprise when those on short sentences walk out the prison gates with little or no support. Enough is enough.’ I wonder: if Ken Clarke was still Justice Secretary, would the Mail have been so lenient with these dismal figures and the human misery associated with them?

Grayling is right to identify the lack of support for prisoners on short sentences; he is in agreement with Clarke on that if nothing else. But the question remains as it was in 2010, when Clarke was battling critics from the right, who thought he was soft, and from the left, who thought he was tight-fisted. Are there sufficient resources – from general taxation, the private sector and the tertiary sector – to provide the required remedial support?  As Ken Pease, the Prison Reform Trust and others all noted back in 2010, remedial programmes without money are worthless.

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  • Ben Kelly

    Another reason, not mentioned, why prisoners re-offend is because they do not fear prison. I have direct experience when volunteering for a social work charity; habitual criminals don’t fear prison, many of them find it laughable. Their sentences and their stays in prison are not sufficient punishment. I know drug abusers who get put in prison on purpose for a rest and detox for God’s sake. When they’re in there they just spend their time being idle, warehoused with other criminals like useless animals, it achieves nothing. Their stay in prison isn’t punishment isn’t itself, they are supposed to be going into prison in order to be punished. When there they should be working very hard, 5-6 days out of 7, as punishment, to make themselves useful and be less comfortable, they should not have access to so many luxuries and if working they won’ t miss them, on days not working they should have an opportunity to access education. Their prison term should be hard work, they should be grafting, working in the community when possible cleaning graffiti etc., they should always be in prison uniform. Prison should be hard work and a place they see as unpleasant and a place they do not desire to go back. Right now in our weak criminal “justice” system not only are sentences nearly always cut in half and are too short anyway, prisoners have far too many luxuries and prisons do nothing but warehouse prisoners who spend their time with home comforts being idle.
    Rehabilitation has been attempted in this way for a long time and is not working. @Iabimyshin

  • HookesLaw

    And what are the govt doing – ? The report suggests nothing but in fact it is spending money.
    ‘an annual £450 million package of rehabilitation contracts across England and Wales.’

    Those interested in a serious discussion might wonder why this was not part of the above article – the above govt release (Sept 2013) ends with a ‘notes to editor’. Clearly Mr Nelson was asleep.

  • Span Ows

    Yes, you could almost call this ‘dynamic duo’ Conservatives!

    • telemachus

      Like Ngeh Koo Ham and Nga Kor Ming in Malaysia

  • telemachus

    Grayling still needs to answer the 6 questions of Staggers:-

    Are you content to dilute individual citizens’ rights by removing their ability to
    petition an international court when domestic courts get things wrong?

    Do you think those who wrote the original Convention thought time would stand still?

    Do you think William Hague is wrong to use the promotion of human rights as a tool of our foreign policy?

    Which bits of the Human Rights Act wouldn’t make it into your Bill of Rights?

    Do you think judges have any role in holding governments to account?

    Do you believe in the universality of human rights?

    • Colonel Mustard

      And ‘you’ need to answer these 6 questions:-

      What happened to “Antonio_Gramsci”? Did Labour HQ think it too revealing of their inherent ideology for you to post their propaganda using the name of that communist?

      Who directs your work?

      How many of you are there and how is your operation funded?

      What or whose office are you based in?

      How many other pseudonyms do you use online?

      How many blogs do you monitor and post Labour party propaganda and rebuttals at?

      • telemachus

        I apologise that some of my associates may push the boundaries too far
        But there is a war
        Some must be held to account
        Grayling like Hunt and Gove is one such

    • Span Ows

      thread hijacked from first comment, that’s a new one…

      • Jackthesmilingblack

        Good, huh?

    • Hexhamgeezer

      If Grayling had enough b0llocks his answers would be;

      Yes. When those individuals’ aims are to traduce others rights and to murder and maim law abiding citizens/subjects then those who despise others natural and reasonable rights must have some rights set aside.

      The 2nd question is an irrelevance and a smokescreen to avoid addressing the 1st answer.

      Yes. human rights are adopted and accepted not imposed.

      The current right of a non national non indigenous murderer, rapist, robber and thug to remain in this country at the taxpayers expense because he has fathered a child whom he never sees.

      Yes but only UK judges.

      In our multifaith/multicultural/multiracial/multigendered world it is surely racist/Imperialist/sexist/!$lamophpobic to believe in the ‘universality’ of any human qualities desires or rights?

      As usual you reveal yourself as a thick authoritarian fascist.

      • telemachus

        In our multifaith/multicultural/multiracial/multigendered world
        I like this description
        Since it is here we need the HR act to keep it safe

        • Jackthesmilingblack

          Am I missing something?

    • Russell

      Ermmmmm….It is Judges that enforce the law and governments that make the law stupid! The electorate are the only people to hold the government to account, and labour were held to account (not enough nearly) for introducing the blo**y stupid human rights Act which lets terrorists and illegal immigrants stay in this country stupid boy!

      • Mynydd

        The government has been in power for over three years, so if it’s so bad why do we still have a Human Rights Act? Don’t say it’s all the fault of the Lib Dems. Mr Cameron failed to win an overall majority, he then didn’t consult with his party, and didn’t have the bottle to form a minority government.

        • Russell

          You answered your own question!
          The Conservatives do not have a sufficient majority in the House of Commons without LibDem support and the LibDems refuse to scrap the Labour introduced Human Rights Act!

          Result Conservatives ‘in’ government and unable to scrap it in their more than three years in a coalition government dopey!

          Really stupid question, but entirely predictable from a dyed in the wool Labour supporter and anti Conservative fanatic.

          • HookesLaw

            Correct. We need a conservative govt at the next election.

            • Russell

              A Conservative coalition with UKIP would be completely satisfactory, as long as the pro EU leader Cameron is replaced. The people might then get some real Conservative policies and make a significant cut in public sector employees, scrap a lot of Labour headed Quangos, halt the building of these stupid subsidised windmills, cut the cap on welfare to something realistic like £15,000 per year and restrict child allowance to 2 people (In their first year of government).

      • telemachus

        I think you will agree that the HR act has improved the lot of many formerly living under tyrannical regimes in far east Europe
        How can we abrogate our participation
        Our example is important

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