Socialist Worker

Government has failed to deal with media hysteria over sentencing

by Harry Fletcher
Issue No. 2006

In recent weeks the home office has experienced what is probably its worst crisis for decades.

As a consequence of the “foreign nationals” scandal there are now hundreds of prisoners being held beyond their release date awaiting deportation procedures. They include at least two Europeans jailed for fine default.

The National Association of Probation Officers (Napo) also understands that the street crime initiative has backfired. The prime minister has ordered the police to sort out the problems by the end of July. This may involve a presumption of no bail and more jail sentences.

Parliamentary questions have revealed that over 1,000 offenders have been given indeterminate sentences during the last year, which is double the expectation.

The home secretary is in the process of ordering the parole board to be more cautious, so fewer prisoners will be released. And there is huge pressure in the media for longer sentences.

There is no indication that there will be any extra resources for probation.

The prison population currently stands at 77,800 and is predicted to hit 81,000 by the autumn. There are currently 1,300 places left. The effect of the measures outlined above mean that the 81,000 is now a gross underestimate.

There is no additional capacity in the probation service. The government has failed to deal with the hysteria in the media and now faces the biggest crisis it has ever seen.

Harry Fletcher is an assistant general secretary of Napo.


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News
Sat 24 Jun 2006, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 2006
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