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'Uncork the Gauke!': Real CJ reform, at last?

This has been a busy couple of weeks for the Justice Secretary, David Gauke. The man who, claim The Times, is sent in front of the cameras to ‘take the heat out of any row’ has, now the Worboys affair has calmed down a bit, stepped in front of those same cameras to talk about sentencing and prisons. And two (quite possibly interrelated) strange things are happening: a Tory Justice Secretary is proposing liberal reforms; and people are listening. Hoping, even.
The ermine-clad spectre of Michael (now Lord) Howard hovers just behind any Conservative speaking out on crime and justice. His infamous ‘prison works’ speech to the party conference in 1993 has done more to shape public perception of the Tories’ attitudes to prison and criminal justice than anything they have said – or done – since. But Lord Howard’s rhetoric obscures the fact that liberal CJ policy is not an unknown for the Conservatives; rather, it points to the political reality that the shakier the grasp on power (which, a…
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Lags Miserables...

‘LAGS MISERABLES’ hollered the front page of The Sun two weeks ago.‘CONVICTS at a drug-plagued prison performed a lavish version of musical Les Miserables for the public — to boost lags’ morale.’
As someone convinced of the transformative potential of the Arts; and of the absolute necessity of artistic provision in our prisons, this article was saddening, if not particularly surprising. Ten years, ago, then-Labour-Home-Secretary Jack Straw ordered the cancellation of a comedy course in HMP Whitemoor on the unsubstantiated grounds that such a course was ‘inappropriate’. Ten years hence, commenting on this production of Les Miserables at HMP High Down, Tory MP David Morris suggested that ‘…prisons should be preparing offenders for release back into the community by training them for proper jobs or giving them skills. Getting to perform in a show like this is something most normal, law-abiding people can only dream of and would never get the chance to do.’ Evidence of a certain politica…

Welcome...and why?

Does the world need another blog? Probably not and, I must confess, I've always been slightly suspicious of the concept; much as I remain regarding Twitter or anywhere, really, where people inflict their random thoughts and half-baked opinions on others who, most of the time, couldn't care less. 

Why, then? Well, first of all: the thoughts you might read here, and the opinions I offer will almost certainly be random and more often than not half-baked - and so I proudly take my place in the long line of internet commentators shouting into the void. But I hope to use this platform to encourage debate, rather than as a dull gallery of my infrequent writings. Issues of Criminal Justice [CJ] are contentious and elicit strong opinions and emotions: rightly so. There is a lot of shouting from the sidelines; a lot of strong criticism of those making policy and attempting to influence it - much of which is unaccompanied by any better ideas, or any acknowledgement that those who hold opp…

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