From the Archives

In the light of Mr Grayling’s inspired decision to make a decision before he has received the data required to take a decision on prison reoffending rates, I thought listeners might like to tune into this broadcast from July 2010….

July 10, 2010 · 4:45 am

RAOUL MOAT: Shooting ourselves in the foot on crime.

Counting the cost of a Moat

Now that Raoul Moat is no longer with us, it seems appropriate to post a view on the manhunt: why it happened, what it cost, and what we can learn from its many elements.

It happened because Mr Moat was a self-obsessed and mentally unbalanced body-builder with all the usual form: multiple arrests for weapons ownership and common assault, bouncer at various clubs, insanely jealous of other men and so forth.

It also happened because his latest imprisonment – 18 weeks for assault – had done nothing except stir him up into a frenzy of hate against his girlfriend and her new bloke.

It was lengthened by Moat having access to guns, and accomplices prepared to help him.

And it happened because he was and always would be a danger to society. The telling point here is that the prison let him go following a risible sentence (they had no choice) but within minutes were ringing various police forces, more or less to yell “Headcase alert!”

What is the point of a justice, sentencing and incarceration system that behaves like this?

And so to the cost. It’s not all bad news: Mr Moat was very good for news station ratings, and he did at least have the decency to kill himself, thus removing the cost of putting him – cluelessly – into another cell somewhere at vast cost to the State.

But the number of police officers and various other emergency services put on alert to catch one (clearly resourceful) chap will be horrifying. This is the way it is with a dysfunctional system run by people with no sense of mission: it gets very expensive in all kinds of entirely foreseeable ways. If the taxpayer gets out of this with a cost much under £3million, I’d very surprised.

Nothing will be learned from any of it. No doubt Theresa May the Winged Avenger will be seen throughout the day praising police bravery and superb organisation. For sure the Daily Mail will witter on about the sentence being outrageous (Is this the daftest Judge in England?). And somebody sooner or later will warn about the dangers of taking steroids.

This is all bollocks, but it helps to make people feel better. What we could learn, if we had a mind to, includes:

1. If you know the law states a prisoner must be let go, medicate his mental condition. Better still, get the guy diagnosed and, if necessary,detained until his mood improves.
2. Tell the police before you release him, not afterwards.
3. Ask yourself – at long last – the obvious question: what is the point of a prison sentence under the current regime?

Unfortunately, we live in a culture where 1. above would be abused within days, the police at 2. would do nothing, and even raising 3. will produce howls of protest. But none of this can change the facts.

And the facts are these:

1. Two thirds of all released prisoners reoffend within two years. (Justice Ministry)

2. Reoffending by thousands of criminals serving short prison terms in England and Wales costs the taxpayer up to £10bn a year. (National Audit Office)

3. The more people are sent to already overcrowded prisons, the more the reoffending rate rises.
(Home Office)

New Labour built more and bigger prisons than ever before. But reoffenders rose from 53% to 65%. And the reason seems to be obvious: first and minor offenders get banged up and meet professionals who teach them more in a month than school ever did in 12 years.

The knee-jerk reaction from the Tories before the election was more prisons, tougher treatment, and vague promises not to fiddle the figures like their predecessors. Like most political ideas, it is easy on the backbenchers, and populist – but nothing to do with the problem.

The problem exists at three levels:

* A knackered culture (as in the Daily Star’s two-word front page this morning, ‘GOT HIM’.)

* Easy access to weapons

* The use of prison as a one-size-fits all punishment

* The near-total lack of any remedial or scientific methodologies being applied to those who are imprisoned.

It is, of course, a gigantic subject. And it will get bigger, more confused and more expensive until somebody uses her noddle about what’s required – as opposed to what plays well at Conference.

Hint for Theresa: ‘Tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime’ is not it.




10 thoughts on “From the Archives

  1. The reasons prison doesn’t work, is because the punishment rarely fits the crime.

    I’m tired of the word “rehabilitate” as if we are talking about a 2 year old on the naughty step.

    FACT: some people are just BAD. Fact, the more BAD you are, the more the nice people will spend £Millions of other peoples money trying to make you “nice”.

    Fact – it never works, because BAD people quite often chose to be BAD (unless they are mentally ill), because they don’t see the point of going to work every day to make someone else rich for a pittance, when you can just “take” i.e. steal, the products of other peoples labour and they deserve it because they are pathetic and weak.

    Instead of rehabilitation, if you want to keep people out of prison, you need to start thinking like a BAD person and make prison such a tough and awful place to be PUNISHED 18 hours a day, that even the mentally ill won’t want to spend a weekend in there, rather than make it a lifestyle choice.

    If you treat Bad people humanely, they see you as weak. They quite rightly (in their mind) take advantage of every weakness offered them.

    If you want to be respected by a BAD guy, show him that you are 10 time more BAD than he is and you will crush him for 18 hours EVERY day of sentence and show him who weak and pathetic he is.

    THAT is how you stop people going to prison. That is how you make BAD people a little more “Nice”.


  2. Totally agree.
    Prison is a holiday camp. The Ken Clarkes of this world say “Prison doesn’t work”, WELL MAKE IT WORK! idiot.



  3. One of the problems we have is our own desire for revenge. Moat should have been detained in a secure unit far sooner and held until cured of whatever ailed him. However society wants it’s pound of flesh and so instead, people who would be better dealt with if they were under the control of doctors (and thus society better served in the long run), are sent into the prison system then released resulting in failure.

    A good example of this desire is the Yorkshire Ripper – Peter Sutcliffe. Obviously as mad as a hatter, yet tried in a Court of Law and sent to a standard prison, only to ultimately end up in an asylum anyway. So why not cut the middle man out and just detain him under a Home Office Order? The end result would be the same. The answer is because it would have been political suicide – the public must have it’s circus. And as you rightly allude, we couldn’t trust the authorities not to abuse such a system and use it for the wrong reasons.

    I read somewhere that Inspector Abberline (of Jack The Ripper fame) once rebuked a young constable who had remarked that Jack The Ripper would be hanged. Aberlaine is reported to have sternly said ‘No he won’t. He is obviously insane and we do not hang the insane in this country’.


  4. Prison is far from a holiday camp. The food is absolutely awful (just because the menus sound good – so does dog food labels), the prisoners are largely ignored and left to their own devices so long as they keep quiet and they are extremely violent places and very depressing places.


  5. A couple of thoughts that occur.

    Firstly in many British jails a radicalised political Islam is a dangerously growing force that is shifting from the original subcontinetal holders over to include many Afro-Carib youth who absorb it in an atmosphere of ideological grievance. In so doing they frequently discard the evangelical Christian background of many of their parents. Polls a couple of years past showed a similar amount of black people from all backgrounds believing that the UK would be better with Sharia law, than not, than those of Pakistani background which was the focus of liberal outrage in the press.—Living-Apart-Together.pdf

    Secondly, I think that there is strong argument for corporal punishment being administered for lesser offences, if necessary with a suspended sentence (corporal or incarceratory) attached to it as an added disincentive. This avoids jail time and the costs and problems that jail frequently has been shown to have (institutionalisation, academies of crime etc) and allows the offender more liberty, not less.


  6. It is a big subject but just to pick on a couple of points:

    Few if any with various *anti-social* traits are cured by treatment or imprisonment. But imprisonment keeps the public safe from them. It isn’t about revenge it is about protecting the many from the few.

    Claims that those treated are cured have been wrong so many times I wonder that there is still any significance attached to anyone claiming to have ‘cured’, as in *made safe*, the anti-social behaviour of any individual so justifying release. Rare successes are just that, rare.

    Prisons might not be Holiday Camps but that isn’t for want of trying to make them such by the authorities, it is the inmates who make prison as unpleasant as it is for many, not the State.

    If the State is going to fail in it’s primary duty to protect it’s law abiding citizens, it should weight legislation to support the citizen who protects himself. It does the opposite and gets all high and mighty any time the good citizen proves just how easy it is to negate criminal activity by taken direct action protecting himself.

    In an ideal world any anti-social behaviour would result in the State taking action to educate and train the individual concerned until that person became a useful citizen. The person remaining incarcerated until then. Unfortunately just saying that invites the State to open the Orwellian box, and we wouldn’t want that would we.


  7. TPTB love crime especially that of the violent nature, it keeps the plebs in constant fear and it justifies a police force that is good for putting revenue from public money into the pockets of the operatives of the just us (justice) system. Its one big stitch up!


  8. Sorry but you are wrong about first and minor offenders getting banged up to learn from the hardened cases.

    You already need to be a career criminal and have committed some fairly serious offence before you are ‘banged up’.


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