Here we go again. The latest group of cross party MPs have come to the conclusion that there are too many people in prison and that the population of inmates should be cut.

Yes, once again they have demonstrated how out of touch and ill informed they are. I have read with interest an article posted on this site earlier this week relating to this, and was flabbergasted by the assertion from the Cross Party Play Group that offenders who offend out of addiction (to drugs presumably, although many seem to be just addicted to offending) should be spared prison time.

This group of offenders do so out of a necessity to fund their addiction, they are compelled to offend by it. These are the most prolific and persistent of all offenders and should be the first group that we should be sending to prison, not the last. Send them there for longer and do not allow them soft community orders. Get them off our streets!

It has also been said that long sentences do not cut crime. Yes they do! Prisoners cannot commit crimes against the public. The fact that they re-offend when released is as a direct result of the treatment they receive whist in prison, some of which resemble a hotel rather than a jail.

We have the largest prison population in Western Europe apparently. SO WHAT. Well Done! This is probably the only statistic that this government should look upon with pride. Criminals do not deserve to live in the community with the rest of us, lock them up, and lock them up for longer.

There is a straight forward answer to the prison over-crowding problem, build more of them. This is not a waste of resources, ask any decent person walking along any street and they will agree.

Here is a statement that everybody in our country knows, apart from the justice department! Community punishment does not work! Last summer I saw a group of ‘Community Payback’ workers in my village. How nice it was to see a group of about ten young men, shirts off, enjoying the sun…. although I did see two of them cutting a tree. During the two of three days the group were there, two things happened, the tree was pruned, and a burglary occurred to an elderly lady who made the mistake of engaging them in conversation from her adjoining property. Obviously it cannot be said that any of these group was responsible, but it’s a bit of a coincidence don’t you think?

Back to the prison situation. Obviously, because of the financial mess we have been led into, savings have to be made. But why target the Prison System, the Prison Service provides all of us with a rubbish bin in which to deposit our unwanted and useless trash. I accept that this cannot be said of all inmates, but of some it can, and that is why no cuts should be made. There are other systems and organisations which could and should be streamlined before the Prison Service.

How about the Legal Aid System. This system affords anybody arrested and brought to a Police Station the right to ‘free and independent legal advice’. This system has an annual budget of 2 Billion Pounds, the majority of which will be allocated to the Criminal Legal Aid System.

Surely the Legal Aid system is designed to assist the many individuals who now, due to the situation our country is in, have no option other than to commit crime to provide for their families. (These people, in my view, have not chosen to be criminals and a distinction should be made from those who choose to offend.) Take the 70% duty that we pay on fuel. Yes, for those of you that didn’t know, for every £1 you spend on fuel, 70p goes directly to the government! No wonder people feel they have to resort to theft. This is what our government has created. But there are also the hardened criminals, those who will offend by their very nature.

I have no problem with the Legal Aid System per se because any of us could find ourselves in trouble and need the help of a solicitor at the police station.

However, over 60% of legal aid’s ‘customers’ use the system on more than one occasion, I would suggest that some people use the system many, many times over and over again. This cannot be acceptable.

Anyone could end up in trouble on a solitary occasion by accident, maybe even twice, but any more than that and that individual should no longer be able to draw from a fund designed to protect vulnerable people who find themselves in Police custody.

Repeat offenders continually draw on this fund but, wait a minute, there’s a bit of a vicious circle here isn’t there? Prisons are soft and no deterrent so offenders continue to commit crime upon release, then, claim legal aid for their repeat offence! Thereby prisons get fuller and the Legal Aid pot diminishes.

How do we address this? Well firstly by granting any individual access to Legal Aid on perhaps two occasions over any, say 10 year period, the 60% expenditure would be massively cut, we are talking millions of pounds, (which could be used to build more prisons).

Secondly, make prisons what they are supposed to be, a punishment not a social club where offenders know the vast majority of the other inmates. Send the prisoners from Scotland to prisons in England, those from England to Wales and so on. I know that offenders do not like going out of the area where they usually spend their sentence. This will be more expensive in terms of transportation, but if effective will be a small price to pay.

This will never happen though, because we live in a country that puts more emphasis on the rights of criminals than on those of the law abiding majority.

We live in a country that is soft on criminals, whose government has lost the battle against the politically correct do-gooders and lost the battle for our prisons.

All societies need prisons, but they need them to be a deterrent, if they were, we would not have the problem of repeat offending and would not be talking of financial cuts.

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