This evening, Lib Dem MP Mark Oaten is to argue that "we should abolish prison" on Radio 4's "Hecklers" at 8pm. (In case you read this after the event, it will be repeat at 10.15pm on Saturday). This is an idea he first proposed last October:
I would sell the grotty Victorian prisons for housing redevelopment and use the proceeds to move the 30,000 violent offenders to new, modern and secure units outside of town and away from the general public. Drug abuse within these units would be stopped, and the prisoners would have a tough working day.Can I invite you to revisit a couple of my past posts, Justice: Retributive or Restorative? and Prisons Need Inner Change, and then let me know what you think?
For the 50,000 prisoners who have no history of violence, a new system of education and training must be implemented. Half of our prisoners have the reading capacity of an 11 year old and over two thirds are innumerate; worst of all, recent studies show that as many as 60% of the prison population doesn’t even have the language skills to cope with the education programmes currently run by the government in prisons. I would implement a compulsory training programme, teaching them to read, write and count.
I would also like to see prisoners involved in business programmes. In Reading, a pilot scheme has been set up whereby non-violent offenders on day release work for the construction industry. Not only are they taught new skills, they are also given the opportunity to contribute to society. By the end of the scheme many were offered jobs and more importantly the re-offending rate dropped to 7%.
Finally, the punishment should also include taking part in community service schemes, chosen by the public itself. Their aim would be to enable the offender to help improve the local environment and amenities, and work towards a gradual re-integration of the prisoner back into his local community.