One of the new causes that the BBC is fervently supporting is the mantra that prisons don’t work. During the Labour years, the corporation was virtually silent on this issue, mainly because Blair, Straw, Brown and their lackeys clearly diasagreed.
But now that the Cleggerons seem hell bent on reducing the prison population sharply, our nice BBC reporter friends are on a full-scale hunt for every snippet that will support their case. Today it’s a platform for those perennial do-gooders the Howard league for penal reform to trumpet that only 6% of prison governors believe that short prison sentences work in helping to rehabilitate prisoners. Well hang on. Short prison sentences are not, and have never been intended to rehabilitate as a primary purpose. They’re there to send the message that in a civilised society, certain anti-social, irresponsible behaviour leads to a loss of liberty and all the inconveniences that go with it. It’s also a way of protecting the public and of spreading the reassuring message that if you do bad things, bad things happen to you.
The survey question was as inane as asking whether hanging would help in rehabiliating someone. I note that in the article that there is not a peep from anyone who supports jail as a deterrent or from those (like me) who are deeply uneasy about further ill-considered liberal experimentation in this complex area. Of course, we would all like more effective ways of rehabilitating people, but there is no sign that anything like this is being offered; the alternative to jail seems to be to not jail them – because it saves money – and/or give offenders community sentences (which are so circumscribed by human rights restrictions as to be a useless joke). Note also the careful selection of a quote from a supposed university expert saying that we should “address the needs of offenders”. Right on. Exactly the BBC mentality. But what about the victims of crime? And public safety?