Kenneth Clarke’s legacy: first fall in prisoner numbers since 1990s

 

The prison population has fallen by almost 3,000 since the start of last year, reversing a trend dating back to the 1990s, it has been revealed.

A total of 83,909 people are currently locked up in England and Wales – a drop of 2,869 since 1 January, 2012.

Numbers behind bars have been dropping at the rate of nine per day since peaking last spring.

The last time the prison population was lower at the beginning of a year than 12 months earlier was on January 1, 2000 – and that was a blip in a remorseless rise.

The drop has been accompanied by a sharp fall in recorded crime, confounding the conventional wisdom that levels of law-breaking tend to rise in times of economic hardship.

Some of the fall in prison numbers – but far from all of it – is explained by people jailed for their part in the 2011 riots being released.

Frances Crook, the chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said Kenneth Clarke, the former Justice Secretary, could take “credit” for the drop. Mr Clarke had promoted the idea of a “rehabilitation revolution” to try to tackle the causes of offending because too many inmates were locked into a cycle of crime and prison. His proposal to cut sentences by half in the event of an early guilty plea to help cut prison numbers upset many on the Tory right. Mr Clarke was replaced in a reshuffle by Chris Grayling in September.

“This is the result of two years of concerted leadership from a Justice Secretary who talked down the use of prison,” said Ms Crook. She added that it “remained to be seen” whether the trend would continue under Mr Grayling who takes a more hardline approach to sentencing.

The fall is good news for the Chancellor George Osborne who would have been forced to pay for new jails had the prison population risen.

Senior government figures have also expressed delight over a fall of more than 10 per cent between 2010 and 2012 in numbers of recorded offences. It includes drops of 22 per cent for robbery, 13 per cent for burglary, six per cent for car crime and seven per cent for violent crime.

One Whitehall source told The Independent: “The figures have not behaved as we had expected and prepared for. We have been waiting for crime to start rising again and it simply hasn’t happened.”

Criminologists said improved security, making it more difficult to break into homes and cars, as well as increased numbers of CCTV cameras were part of the explanation.

Some experts also believe people may be now reacting to economic pressure by drinking, suicide, self-harm and unrecorded domestic violence rather than law-breaking.

Richard Garside, the director of the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies in London, said: “There is no iron law that says recession equals more crime or prosperity equals less crime.”

 

Ken Clarke on...

Rehabilitation revolution

“If prison is just a  warehouse in which you keep people and then release them  without guidance, it’s hardly surprising that half of them will be back within 12 months.”

Mandatory sentences

“The idea that  mandatory sentences apply to certain types of offence, to children, is a bit of a leap for the judicial system.”

 

Chris Grayling on...

Rehabilitation revolution

“ I want them to be met at the prison gate, to have someone who knows where they are, what they are doing, and can be a wise friend to prevent them from reoffending.”

Mandatory sentences

“When somebody behaves in an aggressive way with a knife, they should and will go to jail.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Life and Style
Suited and booted in the Lanvin show at the Paris menswear collections
fashionParis Fashion Week
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Kara Tointon and Jeremy Piven star in Mr Selfridge
tvActress Kara Tointon on what to expect from Series 3
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
An asteroid is set to pass so close to Earth it will be visible with binoculars
news
News
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Associate / Partner - Bristol

Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

Day In a Page

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project