Many people have the impression that prison is something that works, that locking people away for a short time is punishment enough for people to mend their ways. The truth is somewhat more complicated than that. For example did you know that of the 75,000 people in jail, it is estimated that only 50,200 have personality disorders. Is it any wonder 97% of all crimes do not come to any sort of justice.
Alex Salmond and Kenny MacAskill have rather sensibly decided to scrap short prison sentences, looking instead for other options regarding punishment and rehabilitation. This has not gone well in some quarters, and this prehaps is an example as to why despite their making sensible decisions, the SNP are losing the spin war with New Labour here in Scotland.
In the Paisley Daily Express, dated 29 March, the local MSP Hugh Henry claimed that 12,000 “criminals” will avoid jail if this is passed. He went on “I know that most reasonable people would agree that low level offences could best be dealt with by avoiding prison…His plans would help people convicted of serious assaults, robbery, indecent assault, housebreaking and (cue the current white horse for the media) even knife crime… Under these proposals, two thirds of knife criminals would avoid jail”.
Interestingly there is no explanation of what criteria Henry uses to bring serious crimes into the realms of 6 months or less sentences. The crimes listed above i would have thought would have garnered more of a sentence than 6 months, which maybe shows that New Labour never got to grips with even the tough on crime part of the sound bite which launched Blair. Something for MacAskill to look at methinks.
Henry’s comments however will resonate in the West of Scotland, where knife crime is synonymous with gang culture and low level organised crime. Henry has said, without saying it, that the SNP are soft on crime, and that prison works. I had Henry down as a lot of things, but a fan of Michael Howard, that maybe would have been taking things a bit too far. Then again New Labour have always been a bit too keen to indulge in political cross-dressing.
When all that MacAskil is looking to do is look for viable alternative’s to locking people up, after all shouldn’t community based schemes like picking up litter and fixing vandalism be a better idea than locking people away for 6 months at a time. But no, according to Henry - “Is this the message we want to send out to criminals?”.
Having said that, Henry might have a point about being soft on crime. After all under the SNP, Scotland’s largest police force has shown a lack of interest in launching a criminal investigation into the decisions made by the local authority run by a self confessed coke-head.