Clegg outlines prison reform policy

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Published: Monday 23rd February 2015 by The News Editor

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Thousands of offenders are being jailed unnecessarily, Nick Clegg will warn today as he promises to press for more early interventions to stop vulnerable people going to prison if the Liberal Democrats are in government after the general election.

The Deputy Prime Minister will use a keynote speech to dismiss the claim that “prison works” as nothing more than a “slogan” when the reality for many offenders is that it makes their problems worse.

He will say that locking up drug addicts, people with mental health problems and abused and vulnerable women simply increases the prospect that they will turn into hardened offenders.

His traditional liberal stance on law and order will inevitably open up the Lib Dems to attack by the other parties that they are “soft on crime”.

Mr Clegg, however, will point to figures showing that the prison population in England and Wales had risen from fewer than 49,000 in 1994 to more 85,000 to argue that increasing numbers were being jailed unnecessarily.

“I don’t believe there are 36,000 more dangerous people now than then. We have not become a more vicious or sinister society,” he will say.

“Abused and vulnerable women, people with serious mental health issues, drug users and addicts, all crammed like sardines into crowded prisons. That is not proof that prison is ‘working’. It’s a litany of despair.

“‘Prison works’ is a slogan, not a solution. It is not working when it routinely turns first-time offenders into hardened criminals.

“We want to end the revolving door that sees offenders leave prison with no help and no hope, only to return to their cell a few weeks later.”

Mr Clegg will say that the Lib Dems in government would push for the roll-out of “diversion and liaison services” – which intervene in the early stages when vulnerable offenders are first identified – across England.

They will argue also for powers to commission mental health services as an alternative to custody for troubled young offenders while offenders convicted for possessing drugs for personal use should be put in treatment or education rather than a prison cell.

The Lib Dems would also seek to establish a women’s justice board while promoting greater use of restorative justice for children raised in care, so they are not “dragged into the criminal justice system” for behaviour that, for other children, would have been dealt with in the family home.

“This is not some ideological crusade. The Liberal Democrats want these things because they work, because they will make us safer,” he will say.

Published: Monday 23rd February 2015 by The News Editor

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