Thursday, 1 July 2010

Penal Reform

While Ken Clark was pledging to break with the tradition 'prison works' philosophy and bring in more community sentences in England yesterday, the Scottish Parliament was also debating reform to our justice system.

Labour and the tories have long aggravated for the a mandatory six month sentence for those convicted of carrying a knife but the majority of MSPs disagreed and in the final vote on the Criminal Justice and Licensing Bill, MSPs rejected the plan by 64 votes to 61.

Also short prison sentences of three months or less have been scrapped, (unless in special cases), in a bid to cut down on reoffending as part of the most wide-ranging justice reforms ever passed in the Scottish Parliament.

The age at which children can be prosecuted in an adult court was raised from 8 to 12, however eight-year-olds can still receive a criminal record through the Children's Hearing System.

The Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill originally proposed scrapping sentences of six months or less but this was reduced to 3 months in order to get the LibDems and Greens onside although I can't understand why they refused to support the 6 month proposal. The Scottish government want a presumption to impose Community Payback Orders such as clearing rubbish, cleaning graffiti, gardening for the elderly instead of short sentences. It believes prison can be a college of crime for minor criminals who then graduate to more serious offending under the tuition of fellow prisoners.

All very plausible and I agree with the premise that very short sentences can do an offender more harm than good but, if we are to use community service as a punishment, there needs to be a new approach to it. Community service in this country has always been regarded as the 'soft option' and run badly. What is now needed is a community service organisation operated by ex-military or ex-police officers - people who understand the meaning of the word discipline and self satisfaction because the majority of offenders receiving short sentences are young. Our educators need to be in on the act too because many petty offenders are poorly educated in the basics skills of reading, writing and maths. Having three months or less to introduce an offender to the work ethic and the understanding that education is the way to paid employment will not be easy, but we need to try. We have a responsibility to young people who have lost their way or have yet to find it.


Idle Pen Pusher said...

SR - I'm not sure prison should be there to reintroduce a work ethic which will be undermined by tax and benefits the minute a prisoner leaves.

I think prison should be about deterrence. Let welfare reform look after the work ethic...

Idle Pen Pusher said...

Seems Dan Hannan came to the same conclusion, too:

subrosa said...

I think in many cases few have ever worked IPP so it's not a matter of reintroduction really.

The present system doesn't work as we have so many reoffenders.

Perhaps it ought to be tougher, I don't know.

subrosa said...

Thanks for the link IPP. I tend to agree with much said.

Dramfineday said...

Chain gangs - midges and miserable conditions, path building, marsh drainage, tree planting, burn cleaning, litter picking, beach cleaning.

They are currently in a huge club and want to get back in to it as soon as they are kicked out so how about a huge project like restoring Melrose Abbey? Digging out the stone, masonary, woodwork, logistics, glasswork, construction, electrics, decoration, tapestry, the works, Give them something to be proud off and maybe some might walk away as master mason, carpenter etc., to their name and never darken a prison again - in other words become useful human beings. Ach, I'm away in fantasy land again!

subrosa said...

Another superb idea Dram and a very worthy project that would be as the the Abbey has a place in my heart.

But, will the Community Orders cover such things? Auch I too am away in fantasy land.

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