Labour prisons expert attacks party for “shameful” stance on penal reform

Frances Crook, a Labour member and Director of the Howard League for Penal reform, has launched a stinging attack on the Labour Party’s approach to penal reform calling recent moves by Shadow Lord Chancellor and Justice Secretary Sadiq Khan “shameful”.

Writing on the Howard League’s website, Frances Crook said,

I was so angry with the Labour Party I found it hard to put into words. For the record I am a Labour Party member and was a Labour Party councillor and I have been a huge admirer of Sadiq Khan, a man who has up until recently had an exceptional record in the legal and political field championing social justice. However…

She went on to attack Khan for his views, reported by The Guardian:

In a story entitled ‘Kenneth Clarke faces twin-track assault on jail reform plans’ Sadiq Khan expresses his view that scrapping IPPs [indeterminate sentence for public protection] and cutting remand’s use are somehow soft on crime. This directly contradicts the pledge given by the Labour leader, Ed Miliband in his very first conference speech that they would be supportive of penal reform…

Abolishing IPPs and restricting the use of remand on those who would not attract a custodial sentence if found guilty is not radical penal reform at all. To me it is common sense. Both of these techniques remind me a little of the film Minority Report, where people are sent to prison before any actual crime has been committed or proven. We have a presumption of innocent until proven guilty in this country.  Remand can fly directly in the face of that starting point. Of course remand should be used where someone is a clear danger to the community but Kenneth Clarke is not planning to scrap that at all…

With a changing of the guard in the Labour Party I really hoped I would begin to see the values I admire applied to the most vulnerable in our society. But instead we seem to once again be getting the argument that the Labour Party only cares about the “deserving poor”, an idea that was discredited by the end of the Victorian era. That is not my idea of progressive social policy.

Earlier this year Mr Khan expressed the following view to a Fabian Society event:

‘Let me at this point be clear – it is my aim that fewer people should be sent to prison’.

Well at this stage he is publicly against reductions in sentence length, against reductions in overuse of remand and against reductions in the use of IPPs (which almost everyone agrees is a failed experiment). My question is how on earth does he plan to achieve it?


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  • I think there’s a logical flaw in the argument toward the end, unless it’s just not clearly expressed.
    I don’t think shorter sentences necessarily mean fewer people going to prison, unless it results more suspended sentences, it means fewer people *in* prison, a subtly different thing.

    It’s a shame because I support the sentiments.

  • patrick murray 30th Jun '11 - 4:29pm

    i still find it astonishing that after 13 years of a hideously illiberal labour government there are people who believe in penal reform who not only still vote labour, but are members. what the hell did this person expect labour to do given their track record? why have they remained a labour supporter for the past 13 years?

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