Wonk Watch: Policy Exchanged

Given the ongoing battle between Ken Clarke, with the help of Crispin Blunt, and the Downing Street media operation over reducing prison sentences, Guido was particularly amused to see the make-up of this Policy Exchange event at Tory conference:

So along with a chairman, there are three speakers in a row who want to cut the prison population and no one who thinks this a bad idea. Don’t tell Andy…

But is everyone at Policy Exchange signed up to the chosen viewpoint? Why isn’t their Head of Crime and Justice, Blair Gibbs, on the panel? At the other events, the PX speaker is the person responsible for that policy area, not Neil O’Brien. Could it be that Gibbs might not be in agreement with the rest of the carefully selected guests. What does the Head of Crime and Justice have to say on the matter?

Well when he was at Reform he certainly made his views known:

“An ideology hostile to prison has taken root, progressively warping successive Government’s response to rising crime, and in its complacency, directly contributing to it… on all levels – deterrence, incapacitation and rehabilitation … prison cuts crime. The reason this argument is rarely heard, and certainly not from the prison reform lobby, is because the “experts” regard a rising prison population as a sign of society’s failure and so can rarely find a good thing to say about it.

The result of this anti-prison mentality and increased use of non-custodial sentences has been thirty years of rising crime and failed responses.

…we run great risks if we think, despite all the evidence, that we can have a low prison population, while we still have a high crime rate, and not expect public safety to be jeopardised… Much evidence suggests that when it is allowed to, prison works, and with expansion and more investment in Britain it can be made to work better. What doesn’t work, is a criminal justice system that attempts to replace prison with other forms of community punishment, solely on the back of ideological motives or misplaced sentimentalism.”

You can hear the wonks wincing already. How fortunate for the Prison Reform Trust who are sponsoring, sorry “partnering”, the event, that Dave’s favourite think-tank is willing to gag its experts.




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