By James Chapman
Locking up criminals for short sentences is ‘pretty meaningless’ and community punishments must be toughened up to boost public confidence in them, David Cameron said today.
The Prime Minister told the Daily Mail that the calamitous state of the public finances meant Britain could simply no longer afford to lock up offenders at a cost of £45,000 a year only to see them return to jail.
He said he wanted to break the state monopoly in the criminal justice system – bringing in charities and businesses who would be paid depending on their success in reducing reoffending.
Mr Cameron set out plans to try to build support for community punishments by arguing they must be more ‘visible’, suggesting more offenders should wear fluorescent jackets while doing ‘payback’ work.
And he said he would examine the idea of allowing local communities to have more of a say on the projects they want done by convicts in their areas, possibly through local referendums.
But his backing for Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke’s controversial argument that in many cases prison is ineffective is likely to dismay Right-wing MPs.
The Prime Minister’s intervention in the debate appears at odds with the Conservative election manifesto, which pledged to create more prison places.
Mr Cameron said ten per cent of sentences could be affected by a review ordered by Mr Clarke, which is expected to scale back the number of jail terms of less than six months.
The Prime Minister would consider proposals for local referendums to choose community punishments.
‘All ideas of making people feel they have more power and control over government and their lives and the criminal justice system, those are all things we can look at,’ he said.
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