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David Cameron gave a speech in London November 23, in which he said that he will be “tough but intelligent” on crime. He said crime should not be viewed in terms of black and white, either lock them all up or let them go. Cameron instead called for rehabilitation and tougher sentences for those who continually re-offend and do not reform.
Currently only those who are in prison for a year or longer are offered rehabilitation while in prison. However in his speech, Cameron said that he wants rehabilitation to be offered to all those who are in jail, in order to target those who are consistently serving short sentences and then re-offending. He said, “Prevention is the cheapest and most effective way to deal with crime.”
This speech by Cameron on rehabilitation for criminals comes a week after the UK Drug Policy Commission published a report titled: “A Fresh Approach to Drugs.” One of the recommendations of this report is to “… make the criminal justice system more focused on recovery.” The report also says, “sending to drug users to prison without appropriate support either inside or on their release may lead to a a higher risk of death” or “reduced risk of recovery because their treatment is disrupted.” It stresses the need for proper rehabilitation to stop criminals from re-offending.
Cameron then went on to say he wants to see payment by results spread right across rehabilitation and that “… with payment by results your money will go into what works.” This is similar to another of the recommendations within the UKDPC’s report. The report highlights the fact that there are many drug treatment programs that simply do not work and says they should no longer be supported. With Cameron’s payment by results scheme, those rehabilitation programs that do not work will receive no money, therefore cutting off the support that these defective programs receive. However, this could lead to companies ignoring those deemed to be too hard to reform, and instead lead them to focus on reforming the criminals who are easy to rehabilitate, in order to make more profit.
What Cameron also failed to mention in his speech was just how he plans to afford to pay for those programs which have promising results. At the moment, with a lack of details about when it will happen or where the money will come from, this approach to crime that he has outlined appears to be more of a wish list for how he would like to deal with crime than what he actually plans to do.
However if he was to follow a few more of the recommendations outlined in the UKDPC’s report, such as reduced sanctions for possession of drugs by making it a civil rather than criminal offense, then the money to make this a reality could become available. Making possession a civil problem means anyone found guilty would be fined or sent to drug awareness sessions rather than be sent to jail. The report says changing this “could potentially result in less demand on police and criminal justice time and resources,” thus helping to reduce the 3 billion pounds currently spent fighting drugs each year.
If they were to make the possession of drugs a civil offense, then the lesser strain on police time and resources could potentially save billions, thus freeing up money to be spent on Mr. Cameron’s payment by results plan. Not sending criminals to jail for possession could also result in prisons having more spaces available, which could be used to house those re offenders which Cameron say should be given longer prison sentences.
Image Courtesy of The CBI