Putting More People in Prisons No Answer

Chris Blachhurst, the City editor of the Evening Standard and former editor of the Independent, writes a columns saying people who commit fraud should go to prison. This was a long interview with me on London TV.

I replied with this letter send to the Independent (and a similar one to the Standard)

Chris Blackhurst is keen for more people to go to prison because he seems to think that has a deterrent effect and reduces crime (Midweek view 4 November). If only. The UK has more than doubled the number of prisoners since Margaret Thatcher was in power. Did this massive increase in prisoners stops the fraudulent bankers, Libor-fixers, VAT cheats, home insurance premium fraudsters, tax-dodgers and the many others who have swindled people of money for personal profit?
Chris only has to look at this own excellent reporting on the City over the years to know his argument is nonsense and not backed by evidence.
In addition as someone not keen on ever-increasing public expenditure he does not explain who will pay for all the many thousands of fraudsters he wants to send to prison. As it is our useless prisons system costs £17 billion in terms of paying for Chris Gayling over-crowded prisons and the cost of recidivism as 50 per cent of all adult and 75 per cent of all young prisoners come back into prison within a year of release.
Other more intelligent countries have cut crime and punished the people Chris rightly wants something done to without dumping everyone with a conviction into prison. There are 9 million of us with a conviction – ask Nick Clegg who has one for arson. Should he have gone to prison for his youthful stupidity? Chris Blackhurst should not confuse the fury everyone feels when something wrong is done with intelligent policy to cut crime and reduce the ever growing money the British taxpayer forks out on pointless counter-productive mass incarceration because ministers, judges and journalists cannot think clearly.

Dr Denis MacShane

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