- Created: Friday, 19 April 2019 10:54
- Written by Nicki Jameson
On 18 February Justice Secretary David Gauke gave a speech setting out his ‘vision’ for the future of the criminal justice system – a future he described as ‘smart justice’, in which people currently being sentenced to very short prison terms will instead be subject to rigorous community supervision. Gauke is no liberal but he immediately faced a predictable backlash against the idea that any fewer people should be imprisoned. Nicki Jameson reports.
Gauke’s speech was reminiscent of those from then newly-appointed Con-Dem Coalition Justice Minister Kenneth Clarke in 2010. Like Clarke, Gauke began by highlighting the massive growth in the prison population which took place under the 1997-2010 Labour government, as well as during the previous Conservative regimes of Thatcher and Major – from around 45,000 in 1993 to 83,000 in 2006. Despite a few spikes, such as that caused by the mass imprisonment which followed the 2011 inner-city uprisings, prison numbers have remained generally stable since then. However, the punishment machinery is vast, unwieldy, inefficient by any standards and expensive to run. So, whoever is charged with making overall policy for it will look for ways to solve these problems. A recurrent theme in the quest for a ‘solution’ is the proposal to stop sentencing repeat low-level offenders to short prison terms.