Dominic Fisher of the Prague Tory is spitting feathers yet again over a scandal he thinks he’s uncovered. Horror of horrors, Cherie Booth is a Howard League Ambassador for Penal Reform, which implies to Dominic (although I suspect Ms Booth would happily plead guilty on this count) that she believes we should use prison less.
While there is little doubt that prison works on a limited and temporary basis (i.e. offenders can only victimise each other once inside) more than half of offenders commit more crime on release, having failed to learn their lesson.
A criminal justice system should punish in proportion to the crime, but remember that no punishment can undo a crime. Meanwhile, to put your faith in punishment as a deterrent is to put your faith in the rationality of drug users and the mentally unstable and to forget that those healthy criminals almost certainly committed their crime in the expectation of getting away with it.
But the biggest barrier to prison working is that a crime has to be committed before it can be invoked; a criminal justice policy with prison at its heart assumes law enforcement and crime prevention are doomed to fail.