Polly Today

Even when she\’s right she can\’t get it right:

Howard\’s final act was to put US-style two-strikes-and-you\’re-out sentencing on to the statute book for Labour to implement. (In the US a man went to jail for stealing a slice of pizza.)

Yes, the US style two strikes and you\’re out system is indeed insane.Yes indeed, one of the first people sentenced under it in California did go to prison for stealing a slice of pizza. But that\’s not the reason that it\’s insane. He went to prison for life, with no possibility of parole. No, we don\’t have a system like that, we simply don\’t, and your wittering about how awful Howard was will not make it so.

Consider the disastrous message here. This proclaims the government doesn\’t expect any of its social programmes to have any good impact on crime. On the contrary, things will get worse. The 10,500 extra young men imprisoned in 2014 will be Labour\’s children, arrived in school in 1997. Young offenders will have been born under Labour and yet more not fewer of them will "need" to be locked away than under the Tories.

So much for Labour\’s improving schools, extended school activities, expanded youth services, the Yips (youth inclusion programme) designed to catch children at risk before they offend, or a score of other acronyms from Labour\’s neighbourhood programmes. All wasted, all dust?

Well, could be, yes. Its certainly possible that these things do not in fact reduce crime.

Listen to ministers complain that crime has fallen by 40%, including violent crime, yet voters refuse to believe it. But who is to blame for that? Of course people think crime must be rising when prisons are bursting as never before.

There\’s a possible alternative explanation of course. One that most economists would sign on to. As more people are being jailed for longer, the price of committing a crime has gone up so that there are fewer people willing to pay that price.

Frankly, if ministers bothered to study their own departments\’ recent work it would be a good start. Visiting one minister the other day, just as he launched a vital new policy, neither he nor his special advisers had ever heard of a very expensive and highly successful pilot scheme his predecessor had just completed as he left. When government\’s own memory is goldfish short, what hope for deeper history?

Quite. When politicians\’ horizons are only to the next election, (if that long) then how are we to expect any rational long term choices to be made by them? And thus collapses the Statist project.

But Labour has taken us backwards, feeding punitive sentiment instead of persuading by proving what works. Douglas Hurd cut the prison population in the higher-crime Thatcher era: Labour has hugely inflated it.

She see the correlation but insists that it cannot be causality. High crime, low prison numbers, high prison numbers, lower crime. Seriously now, how dim do you have to be to refuse to even consider the thought that perhaps banging people up in prison reduces crime?

11 thoughts on “Polly Today”

  1. I beg to differ as to whether “three strikes” is insane. I corresponded on the subject years ago with a Californian D.A., originally from England, where he had also practised as a lawyer. His initial reaction was the same as yours but having witnessed its effects on recidivist criminals (who are rational actors, whatever Polly may believe) he was a convert. Anyone can fall in with the wrong crowd when young and/or do something rash they live to regret. As a society it’s right that we make allowances for that. But if keep on doing it, having had the gentle treatment twice, I think it’s fair that we throw the book at them – plus the books we didn’t throw on the previous occasions.

    The pizza guy went to jail for **all **his crimes, having breached the terms of a conditional punishment discount on the previous two. He knew the consequences and went for it. It’s simply wrong to say he went down “for stealing a pizza.” Post hoc nec propter hoc.

    The relationship between poverty and crime is entirely mythical. We were a poor country until quite recently, given our impoverishment by WWII. How come we were not awash with crime then?

    The key question is the alignment of public morality and law. Every time our idiot Government criminalises something that in our hearts we know is no biggie, it undermines respect for the law per se. If we decriminalised everything that was not a crime in 1907 and ordered the police to enforce the remaining crimes vigorously (perhaps throwing in the three strikes principle as well), we could return to the halcyon days of my youth when my neighbours didn’t need to lock their doors. For one thing, ordinary citizens would cooperate with the police again. Policing would once more be by consent.

    But Polly wouldn’t like that. She needs crime. Statists need us to fear each other in order to have us cling to the State’s apron strings for protection. She needs us to be afraid, so that we cling to nurse.

    I hate professional criminals not least because they are Labour’s allies in building an ever-mightier State.

  2. “how dim do you have to be to refuse to even consider the thought that perhaps banging people up in prison reduces crime”

    It isn’t simply her (well documented) stupidity that stops her considering the possibility, earlier in the article she writes:

    “just before the 1997 election, [Jack Straw] would say to the likes of me, with a wink and nod, it would all be OK once Labour was in power: we’re decent people at heart who will do the right thing.”

    So it isn’t a question of rational policy for her, believing that prison is effective in reducing crime means that you cease to be a decent person.

  3. Doesn’t the US have both high prison population and high crime?

    Also, it the expected cost which acts as the deterrent to would be offenders, detection + conviction rates therefore need to be considered, alongside the scale of the punishment.

  4. TP is spot on with this “But Polly wouldn’t like that. She needs crime. Statists need us to fear each other in order to have us cling to the State’s apron strings for protection. She needs us to be afraid, so that we cling to nurse.”

    That is what Nulab do. Fuck things up, and then say “That’s why you need us to protect you”. See also missing CDs “That’s why we need ID cards”. See also invading Iraq/terrorism/48-day detention. See millions of taxpayer-funded pseudo jobs “Without us you’ll all be unemployed”

  5. JK wrote:

    ‘Doesn’t the US have both high prison population and high crime?’

    No, despite the desperate attempts on the part of the UK media and politicians to make you believe that, it is not so.

    The US has a high prison population, to be sure. But for all classes of crime except homicide, US crime rates are below those of the UK – often weel below. And crime rates in the US have been generally declining steadily for 15 years – unlike the UK.

    Source – ICVS surveys, which are NOT based on government-provided data. There’s a major report coming out in January with the detailed findings of ICVS5, which will likely show these trends continuing. Expect to see massive spinning of this data by UK politicians.



  6. So, is it two or three “strikes”? I think Tom Paine is correct-at least in each of the 5 USA States quickly checked-it is three. What was the basis for Polly’s “two strikes” ? Different game? Or is that what Howard actually implemented?

  7. Further to what llamas said, gang related homicides have a huge effect on the overall US homicide rate.

  8. About the pizza guy – IIRC he didn’t just take the slice of pizza from a shop counter, he mugged someone for it.

    But that’s not the reason that it’s insane. He went to prison for life, with no possibility of parole.

    What’s the problem? It’s an ideal sentence either for the most serious crimes (first degree murder, terrorism etc), or for those whose collective minor crimes are so many that the cumulative time for them would exceed any normal life expectancy (concurrent sentences are a farce). Unlike execution, miscarriages of justice can be correct (with appropriate compensation), but unlike sentences with the option of parole, the prison regime can be made more austere, thus reducing the £30k per year cost. Obviously lifers would have to be in different prisons to non-lifers for this to work.

  9. Yes. If we are going to release them, then it would be a good idea to try to get them to deal with any drug addiction problems, improve their education, etc. With lifers this is a waste of money, and also perhaps a security risk. Containment is the top priority, then cost.

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