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Saturday, November 05, 2011

Why 'John Lewis jails' are better for corporations than for prisoners

Why 'John Lewis jails' are better for corporations than for prisoners

A thinktank wants to cut crime with 'John Lewis jails', but the plan to get prisoners working looks more like a new opportunity for giant corporations

Yesterday afternoon, it was announced that the prison population has hit its all-time high: at 87,749, it is 76 higher than the previous record set at the start of last month. They promised us a rehabilitation revolution. When Ken Clarke gruffly took the stage to spell out the government's prison policy, in June last year, he said reoffending had to be brought down; he said prison sentences didn't necessarily work; he talked about the "bang em up" culture, and how it produced more hardened criminals; he hinted at sentencing reform, and alternatives to custody. The overwhelming impression was that with this man in charge, there would be fewer people in prison.

There followed what commentators call "disarray": David Cameron backed Clarke, at the same time insisting he believed in short sentences – which two positions are basically opposite (and not in a sophisticated way). Michael Howard piled in; backbenchers were displeased. The prison population grew. It has now topped 87,000 prisoners for 12 weeks in a row. Maximum capacity is 89,000. Relations between prisoners and staff are already deteriorating. One professional wondered, off the record, if "this is the year it's all going to kick off".

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