Letter: Prison system isn't working

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The Independent Online
Sir: As your leading article (13 October) rightly states, the Home Secretary has been singularly silent about the rehabilitation of offenders. This is perhaps not unconnected with the fact that he has ignored the professional advice that 'Prison does not work'.

We should not be surprised that Michael Howard chooses to ignore all professional advice on criminal justice. The Government, has presided over an increase in recorded crimes from 2.3 million in 1979 to more than 5 million last year; in the same period, violent crimes increased from 95,000 to 190,000.

It is, of course, no coincidence that in the same period government policies led to record levels of unemployment; cut local authority funding, exacerbating inner urban deprivation; took benefits away from 16- and 17-year-olds; and reduced income support for 18- to 24-year-olds by 25 per cent.

Far from recognising the direct link between these policies and the increase in crimes, and far from recognising professional advice on how to tackle crime, Mr Howard has decided that 'prison works'.

As Lord Woolf recognises, the probation service is best equipped to supervise the widest possible range of offenders in the community. Locking more people away, including 12- to 15-year-olds, may be a cheap way to buy votes, but, as Lord Woolf said, it is also 'short- sighted and irresponsible'.

Yours sincerely,


General Secretary

National Association of

Probation Officers

London, SW11

13 October