This PM has as much idea what to do with criminals as he would if someone were to give him a comb for his birthday, writes Stephen Tuffin
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Boris Johnson’s latest “who-cares-if-it-works-will-it-get-me-votes” approach is to treat community offenders like Texas chain gangs and force them to wear Hi-Viz jackets.
Presumably, so the rest of us can spot them more easily and pelt them with non-EU fruit – assuming we can find some in our local supermarket.
Humiliating offenders and banging more people up is his latest half-baked “plan” to sort out criminals and make our streets safe again. But it won’t.
Not all the while we have a snake oil salesman for a Prime Minister gleefully promoting out-dated ideas which creates more crime and more victims.
Cracking the whip may produce a frenzy at the Conservative conference next week and feed the desire for tougher punishments from some sections of the electorate.
But the truth is this PM has as much idea what to do with criminals as he would if someone were to give him a comb for his birthday.
Johnson was part of a Conservative Government that gave 21,000 police officers the boot. And a few years back he was caught agreeing to help an Old Etonian crony beat up a fellow journalist. So, our Prime Minister has form of his own when it comes to committing crimes.
His goal should be keeping us all safe. Implementing programmes which get offenders off drugs and alcohol, deal with mental health issues, and educate the illiterate may not thrill a baying crowd but they’re proven to be more effective than locking people away.
I understand the desire for justice and vengeance. I shared it.
Some time ago I got a shoeing from a former professional boxer as I left my local pub. I recall thinking someone should bring back the death penalty for violent clowns like that. I wanted to batter him every bit as much as he’d battered me. To teach him a lesson and make me feel better.
Then I began working closely with prisoners, including one life-serving patient in Broadmoor. Working on a one-to-one basis with inmates has changed my mind. I no longer think revenge and punishment helps anyone. And that includes the victims.
If offenders stop offending, everyone benefits. It’s a simple idea. Although clearly not simple enough for our PM.
Banging people up doesn’t work. An 84% increase in the prison population – 44,975 in 1990, to just under 83,000 today – proves that. And ours is one of the largest prison populations per head in the developed world.
Meanwhile, countries where grown-ups run the show, are busy developing programmes to help ex-offenders get back into society.
The Norwegians, for example, have a more sensible approach to crime than we do. They also have one of the lowest reoffending rates globally at just 20%. Our reoffending rates stand at 47% and costs us an eye-watering £11 billion per year, according to The Prison Reform Trust.
Working with offenders, rather than demonising them would reduce crime and save the taxpayer around £6 billion a year if our rate of reoffending matched that of Norway.
Just imagine how many extra carers, nurses, teachers, and police officers that cash would employ.
Stephen Tuffin is a Lecturer and Writer and part of the New Writing North’s Writing Chance programme.