Wednesday, 15 December 2010

The Prison Problem

One of my first visits when I first became an MP was to HMP Durham. The prison staff there work incredibly hard. It's a priority for me as I've long been a champion of prison reform. The biggest failure of the current prison system is reoffending.

Prison is there to punish of course, but is the public really getting a good deal when almost half of those sent to prison will go onto commit another crime within just 12 months of being release?

I strongly believe we need a system which puts victims first and key to that is giving the victim some confidence the crime will not go on to repeated. We can only do this by tackling reoffending rates.

Justice secretary Ken Clarke has some powerful ideas to change the way prison works. Firstly instilling a disciplined routine of work and education from prisoners. The second being to make sure we tackle rather than ignore the underlining reasons why prisoners reoffend; so often drugs, alcohol or mental health issues.

Ken is also looking at how we can better use rigorous community sentences help build up the skills of offenders whilst making sure they provide meaningful contributions to the community. 71% of those sent to prison for 6 months or less reoffend within two years, that compares to 30% of those who receive community orders.

The answer to reforming our prison system and cutting reoffending is a complicated one. However I strongly believe that in focusing on tackling mental health, drug and alcohol dependency, and adult literacy, with a focus on work, skills and restorative justice, we may just make some real progress.