Radical and Right presage the news: Postscript to article 28 June 2010

You might be forgiven for thinking that Radical and Right have inside information. However, the explanation is simple – we see through the Media and their allies and know what they are up to! So it was that within 48 hours of Mr Right’s reference to UK justice, the UK Media lead with the news of “radical reform” of the prison system.

Early morning on 30th June, the BBC announced that the UK Justice Secretary plans “radical” prison policy change. R&R BBC News Archive – Justice Secretary plans ‘radical’ prison policy change . “Vast sums are being spent “warehousing” people in outdated prisons without any proof it protects the public, Justice Secretary Ken Clarke is to say. In a speech later, he will say he is amazed at the growth in the prison population and he will demand a radical new approach to cut re-offending.”

Right on form, this government minister claims to be protecting the law-abiding: “My first priority is the safety of the British public.” But immediately goes on to reveal his true position: “But just banging up more and more people for longer without actively seeking to change them is what you would expect of Victorian England.”

The realities seem to escape this minister, of course. First, “Victorian England” came to an end over 100 years ago. What we have been living through for the last fifty or so years is the exact opposite i.e. “Liberal Times” and today’s prison population is a product of these times – it has no relation to the policies of the Nineteenth Century! Second, the general public really are protected from criminals whilst those individuals are in prison as very few are able to commit crimes against the general public from “inside”. (Though I can think of a couple of high profile exceptions, crimes arranged through unrestricted access to mobile phones and internet chat-rooms, thanks to the rise of prisoners’ “rights” in the UK.)

“Actively seeking to change” the mind of a criminal sounds like a commendable strategy. However, what the minister is advocating is not “a radical new approach” but a continuation of the policies that have been steadily advanced since the 1950’s – especially where juveniles are concerned.

Ironically, on the same page the BBC provides a related link to a recent government report that actually disproves the minister’s case: R&R BBC News Archive – Nearly 50% of released prisoners re-offend “Statistics show . . . Of all those in jail, prisoners serving less than a year have the highest reoffending rates and the most convictions . . .”

There is something else about today’s BBC article (billed as the top UK news story that morning) that readers should note: the speech that Mr Clarke intends to give later that day is quoted precisely. The article tells us what the minister is going to say, ahead of him saying it. Presumably the minister sanctioned, even encouraged, the release of his speech in advance – and far enough in advance to allow the reaction of other specialists to be included in the article. But question, whose interest is really being served by a “leak” of this nature; does it not reduce the authority of the person making the later announcement? Let the minister puff out the details in his speech later, the news has already been cast.

It is always educational to compare the earlier versions of the news pages with the final editions. Hence the links above are to our archives. The latest BBC version may be found here: BBC News – Justice Secretary plans ‘radical’ prison policy change

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