Letter: Fall in prison population is something to celebrate

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YOUR alarming headline 'Jails empty as crime soars' (31 January) implies that it would be better if they were crammed full.

The misguided notion of 'lock 'em up and throw away the key' has proved counter-productive worldwide. Despite decades of prison brutality and inhumanity in Britain, crime has continued to increase. My view, as an independent insider, is that this is largely due to the longstanding degradation of our social, economic and family values in a highly materialistic society. Coupled with this is the lack of rehabilitation, education, vocational training, preparation for release, etc, while in custody. Prisons breed and perpetuate crime; they are rightly termed 'Universities of Crime'.

We should congratulate the Government for taking positive steps, including reforming the antiquated Criminal Justice Act last October. There is a lot more that needs to be done. The drop in prison population commenced only in the last quarter of 1992. Big changes in any policy require a transitional period.

Anver Jeevanjee

Board of Visitors

HM Prisons, Southampton