Sunday, January 28, 2007

Law and disorder

"My kind of justice is swift, effective and matches the crime". John Reid, Home Secretary.

It has been a bad week for John Reid. You can just imagine him, can’t you, choking on his own bile while “pleading” with magistrates not to lock up criminals who have committed minor offences. The reason being is that the prison population of England and Wales is hovering around its capacity of about 80,000 places. Reid’s woes have increased as he has been condemned from different quarters of the establishment.

Since New Labour case to power the prison population has risen by more than 24%. A first time burglar is twice as likely to get banged up now than under the Tories. The female prison population has risen to over 146% in 10 years. Around 7, 700 inmates attempted to injure themselves in 2003. The number of adults serving sentences under 12 months is up 160% since 1999. Around 1 in 5 people held on remand are acquitted of any crime.

Welcome to Western Europe’s jail capital. It is estimated by the Home Office that the prison population will be 190,600 by 2010! It is getting higher and higher but in words of David Blunkett, when challenged a couple of years ago over the increase of the female prison population, “build more prisons”!

The prison system incarcerates petty criminals, innocent people, vulnerable mentally distressed men and women and teenagers (the imprisoning of 15-17 year olds has increased over the past 10 years and 13 under-21 year olds committed suicide while in prison including on remand in 2005). But don’t let that stop New Labour in their continued crusade for votes ‘cos crime pays.

Since New Labour came to power in 1997, apparently 600 new criminal offences have been created. ASBOs (Anti-Social Behaviour Orders) which have shown not to work and now Reid is pushing for “behaviour orders" for people considered to be at risk of committing a violent crime. This Philip K Dick scenario has all the hallmarks of the proposals to the changes to the Mental Health Bill which states that someone who has been labelled with a severe personality disorder who might commit a crime could potentially be locked up (incidentally the Lords have rejected these proposals but one way or another New Labour is desperate to railroad these measures into law).

New Labour’s frightening political trajectory is authoritarian. Meaningless hollow rhetoric: “Tough on crime and the causes of crime”, a plethora of attacks on civil liberties, populist punitiveness, a promise to build another 8,000 prison places by 2011, prison ships, the abolition of an independent and critical Prison Inspectorate, more privatised jails, a crackdown on early release, attacks on trial by jury, and “victim” impact evidence to be included in trials. And the wider picture includes attacks on legal aid which means the poor won’t get a fair trial but rough justice.

A fundamentally better understanding of crime is to examine the inequalities and power relationships which exist in a patriarchal capitalist society. These inequalities are reflected within the prison population. It is not just a simply a case of pouring money into probation and rehabilitation but in wider economic and social changes which includes an equitable education system, better housing, public services and a better way of understanding each other.

This current society is riddled with alienation and atomisation. The ethos is of individualism and a dog-eat-dog mentality. The collective is left out of the equation. One area which would reduce the prison population and criminalisation is legalising the drugs industry as prohibition doesn’t work. But New Labour isn’t interested in creating a more inclusive and cohesive society instead quick fixes and vote winners are the name of the game and the continuation of neo-liberal policies.

Rosa Luxemburg argued: “Barbarism or Socialism”. I would argue that we are not at the crossroads anymore but half way down the barbarism route. It may sound depressing of me but a society that bases itself on a system that reduces people to a commodity in order to be exploited underpinned by an ideology that simply believes in “understanding a little less condemning a little more” exposes the way human beings are only worth what they can be used for.

Capitalism is the anti-social society.

NB: John “not fit for purpose” Reid has come up with a spectacular though cunning plan to ease the prison overload. He’s proposing to create 2,500 prison spaces by the end of the year by building cells on existing prison sites and reopening disused jail buildings.

Well, this is the man who compares tackling Home Office problems to home renovation. Nice one John, a very imaginative solution but maybe just stick to painting and decorating, eh.


a very public sociologist said...

It's been interesting to see a couple of judges sticking the boot in to Reid this week, with their refusal to jail criminals whose crimes warranted custodial sentences.

I certainly agree with your take on crime, the causes of crime, and the obsession with punishment at the expense of rehibilitation. I think the left needs to do more work in this area though, as all our traditions are collectively weak on the issues IMO.

The Sentinel said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
AN said...

I have deleted a post from the sentinel because I considered it racist.

AN said...

With regard to Louise's arguement. It seesm to me a very significnat development that the labour party are trying to be the law and order party, rather than promoting any form of social justice.

The Sentinel said...


You really are amazing.

I note that you love to condemn 'fascists' but yet emulate their behaviour perfectly.

You have a penchant for censorship and double speak ("its editorial control.)

You play the role of judge and jury-'I consider an opinion to fall into this category'- and therefore it is must be destroyed. The great arbitrator of truth.

Yet again, my comment contained only facts, and as I have said before "It is the truth being verbalised you have a problem with, not the facts behind them that lead to such utterances."

I am aware that you would want me to leave never to return but you have placed yourself in the public domain where I have as much right to be as everyone else.

Is self-affirmation really all you seek? Is there no possibility that someone else may hold an opinion, or be capable of presenting some facts that do not tally with your view and consequently you may not be 100% right? Is that at all possible?

As I said before:

"An opinion deleted is an opinion destroyed.

One famous commentator of the Third Reich once said, in reference to the may 10th 1933 incident in Opernplatz "When one burns books, one ultimately burns people."

The same can be said for destroying opinions."

AN said...

I haven't destroyed your opinion, I have simply not provided a platform for it to be promoted.

Indeed, if people want to read what you have written i assume they may visit your own blog.

The Sentinel said...

Wow, more double speak. You have deleted my opinion, so you have destroyed my opinion.

I was responding to your article, the only reason I was posting a comment in this place, I was not constructing any platform and to suggest otherwise is odd, considering, as I have said, you have no trouble allowing facts and opinions that collide with your position to remain.

Why bother to allow free comment at all, if it is just the ones YOU want to hear that are allowed to be posted? Why not impose complete censorship and select the best ones that match your ideas?

As for people wanting to read my thoughts visiting my blog, that as may be, but I was responding to an article you wrote on your blog, that is in the public domain and appears to allow free comment.

AN said...


A key strategic issue for racists is to create a space where racist views can be published.

I do not want this thread to be dominated by this issue of alleged censorship, and I will delete further comments from you that i consider to be either racist, or off topic.

badmatthew said...

Well, we've already had a post listing jews to show their preponderent influence... if that ever comes up again I've got a list of Jewish comedians from the '50s and they are preponderent there as well. And now a post about how crime comes from immigrants. It does seem to show a certain tendency that seeks to keep in shadow until... I once met a nice but creepy American at an academic conference who told me that he held to the one view it was impossible to speak about, and oddly I kinda guessed what he meant rather quickly and it wasn't about the joys of Morris Dancing. But I've got an academic interest inn these things and would actually like to know the best demolition of Sentinel's arguments!

The Sentinel said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Louisefeminista said...

Badmatthew: Autonomy and self-organisation is about the sections in society who are oppressed being given a voice. If a group of bosses wanted to self-organise you would oppose it.

Power relationships are exist within capitalism and socialists have a duty to support self-organisation. It also gives confidence in arguing your ideas. My experience is in women sections in the LP and various other women's groups I have participated in built my own confidence and also my ideas and I also learned a lot from WC socialist feminists in my LP women's sections way back when I first got involved.

It is important to build autonomous spaces on the terms of the oppressed who then take back their demands into the wider struggle. Unfortunately, many on the left don't see it as an important issue or reduce the arguments to separatism (which is utterly different).

Socialists should support autonomy and self-organisation as it is integral to fighting oppression. If you want a confident, mobilised and politically conscious activists then support for autonomy and self-organisation is way forward.

The Sentinel said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
The Sentinel said...

You want to play under handed games? Fine.

I am just going to keep posting now, you remove it, I repost it.

You may as well enable 'comment moderation' now and show everyone what a hypocritical shallow bunch of deluded fools you really are: censorship and 'fascism' is all your about.