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Post Ken Clarke Prison Service Newspeak in Airstrip One

Tom Winnifrith
Thursday 1 November 2012

Figures out today show that Ken Clarke’s sentencing reforms will mean fewer criminals going to prison. No surprises there. Predictably this has not gone well anywhere, except in what we should probably refer to as the “criminal community.” Soft on crime, soft on the causes of crime. That was Ken Clarke. But this is not about bashing the old Conservative Euro mega-loon. It is the comments from the Ministry of Justice about this which are the real hoot. A true exercise in Orwellian Newspeak.

Prison population projections are routine annual statistics which form a baseline against which future policy decisions can be assessed.

In plain English: we have already made the policy decision but will release more and more data to confuse you all and blur the issue.

The prison estate must meet the needs of the prison population and provide best value for money for the taxpayer.

In plain English: It costs a vast amount to keep a bloke inside (note the cost per meal for a prisoner vs. an NHS patient, etc) and rather than give criminals a more Spartan existence we are going to trim costs by banging up fewer criminals.

Decisions on the future size of the prison estate will take into account population projections to secure greater efficiency and the ability to support a strengthened focus on public protection and a reduction in reoffending leading to fewer offenders returning to prison.

In plain English: We will lock fewer people up for shorter periods so that we can close the odd prison. We will piss away a few quid on programmes to cut reoffending rates but we know that their impact is marginal. We are in effect allowing more criminals to spend more time on the street knowing that their chances of getting locked up for a decent stretch if they reoffend are and, on the off chance, caught are low. So we are not protecting the general public but we will lie about it.

Clarke may have gone but his legacy lives on.

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About Tom Winnifrith
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Tom Winnifrith is the editor of TomWinnifrith.com. When he is not harvesting olives in Greece, he is (planning to) raise goats in Wales.
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