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November 08, 2006

BBC Panorama

For anyone who didn't watch this brilliant investigative journalism, then it's currently available online.

All of those crimes filmed in the investigation, by those who are supposedly supervised, would not happen if the criminals were in prison. The predatory paedophiles would not be befriending children if they were not released early. Whilst community based schemes may be the correct solutions for some people, in this particular case they were clearly not. This is partly due to the complete and utter incompetence of the probation service - and partly due to lack of resources.

The buck stops with you, Mr Reid. The only solution is to build more prisons.

Prisons work.

October 12, 2006

Nearly 8000 offences by tagged criminals

And 1000 of these crimes are violent. One murder, four manslaughters, fifty six woundings and more than seven hundred assaults, one hundred cases of possessing an offensive weapon, one incident of causing death by reckless driving, one hundred of obstructing police and sixteen other violent attacks have been carried out by criminals since the early release Home Detention Curfew scheme came into force.

Overall 7,896 offences had been committed by prisoners whilst tagged. A total of 131,000 have been given HDC between the start of the scheme and the end of June 2006, but there is little effect on the 2 year reoffending rate from this scheme. Today’s report said there is "insufficient evidence" that tagging helped to reduce re-offending or rehabilitate criminals. This scheme was introduced to deal with an earlier prison overcrowding crisis - offenders serving between three months and four years are eligible to be released on an electronic tag up to 135 days before the end of their sentence.

The one murderer - Danny Cann, 27, a convicted robber - killed Stephen Cox in North London in January 2005 by battering him to death with a baseball bat and a hammer in revenge for a headbutting, only weeks after walking out of jail on HDC. He was jailed for life at the Old Bailey last December. Cann should have been wearing the tag at the time of the murder but was not. It has never been found.

None of these crimes would not have been committed, if these criminals had been in prison. Furthermore, it is more evidence that non-custodial sentences do not work; we do not have any evidence to show that reoffending is decreased, and the fact remains that nearly 8,000 reported crimes would not have been committed if these criminals had been in prison for the full length of their sentence. Schemes such as these are not a solution to prison overcrowding - the only solution being building more prisons, well before they are needed.

Interesting that the figures have not been announced in a press release on the Home Office website. You can rest assured we will be returning to this issue in more detail, even if the Home Office are not happy to.

September 25, 2006

The Stone Report

After a 6 year battle through the courts, the report on Micheal Stone has finally been released.

In 1981, Stone received a two-year prison sentence for attacking a man with a hammer during the course of a robbery. In 1983 he was sentenced to four and a half years in prison for two counts of actual bodily harm after stabbing a friend in the chest. In 1987 he was jailed again - this time for 10 years - for armed robbery on a building society in Brighton. He was released in 1993. In 1996, as they walk home along a country lane in Chillenden, near Canterbury, Kent, Dr Lin Russell and her two daughters were attacked by Stone wielding a hammer. Dr Russell and six-year-old Megan died while nine-year-old Josie survives with severe head injuries and brain damage.

Stone suffered from a personality disorder together with drug and alcohol abuse, which made his case complex. He could appear aggressive to one person and cooperative to another almost simultaneously. He had stopped taking medication and admitted to his psychiatric nurse he wanted to kill, days before the 1996 murders. He even appealed for help to tackle his addiction whilst on remand from one of his earlier convictions, but he was told to approach the addiction services on his release.

Yet, the conclusion of Robert Francis QC, the chair of the report, is

"emphatically not a case of a man with a dangerous personality disorder being generally ignored by agencies or left at large"

His history was clearly one of increasing violence, he asked openly for help, yet he was given none. Is there a case for changing the law, whereby those people with escallating violent tendencies are incarcerated until such time they pose no, or limited, danger to the public? Should the protection of the public take precedence over the protection of human rights of criminals?

There are those that would argue this man was ill and therefore prison was no place for him. But in this particular case, prison would have worked. However, one thing that should happen, is for prisons to address the mental health and drug addiction issues of the prisoners whilst they are in prison.

We shall return to this report soon.

September 17, 2006

Hall Of Shame: Anthony Rice

A young mother, Naomi Bryant, was murdered by Anthony Rice, who was released after serving 15 years of a life sentence for attempted rape. Andrew Bridges, the chief inspector of probation, said that Rice's human rights were put ahead of protecting the public.

Verna Bryant, the victim's mother, plans to sue the Government over the release of her daughter's killer.

She said: "Things have been going wrong for quite some time and it's still happening. I don't think the different parts of the system talk to each other. Rice was a high-risk prisoner, but because he was a good boy in prison they thought he must be low-risk."

If this man had remained in prison, Naomi Bryant would not have been murdered.

'Lifers' let out: trippled in five years

The number of life-sentence prisoners being released from jail has almost trebled in only five years. The annual total of "lifers" allowed out onto the streets has risen from 125 in 2000 to a record 351 last year.

Twenty-six of the 1,500 freed since 2000 have subsequently been convicted of further serious sexual or violent crimes. 14 per cent of the 125 prisoners released in 2000-01 were recalled for re-offending or breaching licence conditions. But 28 per cent of the 330 life sentence prisoners released in 2003-04 were returned to jail. Between 1999 and 2001 only 17.2 per cent of applications were approved, but between 2002 and 2004 that figure rose to 21.5 per cent.

Is this increased reoffending rate evidence for slipping standards when choosing who should be released? The Human Rights Act of 2000 gave life sentence prisoners the right to read and challenge reports written about them. Are parole panels or the probation service being more lenient because of the HRA? Are the rights of criminals being put before those of the public? Are more sentences being called 'life', when the minimum time imprisoned set by the judge is only a few years, in an attempt to reassure public opinion?

One thing is for sure - all of the crimes these released prisoners have committed would have been prevented if the criminals had remained in prison - for life.

New Section: Hall Of Shame

Welcome to a new section to Prison Works - the Hall Of Shame.

Here we will list crimes that have occurred as a direct result of dangerous criminals being let free from prison. If you have any stories to include in this section, send an email (with link/source) and any attribution you want included (e.g name, link to your website).

July 08, 2006

107 burglaries in 6 months

Trevia Malcone Cohen, 37, from Rhyl, pleaded guilty to 107 burglaries or attempted burglaries between December 2005 and May 2006. He targeted jewellery in the raids in the Abergele, Rhyl and Prestatyn areas. Supt Barry Jones said after sentence at Chester Crown Court: "This man brought misery to great deal of people, many of whom are elderly."

And one thing is for sure - whilst in prison, this man will not be able to rob anyone. Prison may not be perfect, but put criminals in prison and they can't commit crime.