JACK Straw is right to say that the main point of prison should be punishment.
Of course, part of the reason behind prison sentences is rehabilitation – given the levels of recidivism today, we’ve a long way to go on that score. But prison is also – I would say primarily – about punishment.
If the level of re-offending is the basis for claims that “prison doesn’t work”, then I guess that’s true from that perspective. But in at least one very real sense, prison does work: because while you’re behind bars, you’re not selling drugs (at least not to those of us outside), you’re not stealing cars, you’re not assaulting people and you’re not breaking into other people’s homes.
I recently heard Scotland’s justice minister, Kenny MacAskill, bemoaning the fact that we had too many people in prison in Scotland and that this was unjustified because crime levels were currently low.
“Er… Kenny… there’s something you ought to know…”
There’s a reason that crime levels go down when you put more criminals behind bars. What a pity that Scotland’s justice minister (a lawyer, as if you needed to ask) doesn’t get it.