Ipswich: MP urges cut in prison numbers

Ben Gummer

Ben Gummer - Credit: Archant

TWO decades ago his party pioneered the “Prison Works” concept of justice – but now Ipswich Conservative MP Ben Gummer is calling for fewer criminals to be locked up.

Mr Gummer said the fall in the level of crime had not resulted in a reduction in the number of people being locked away in prison, often for trivial offences.

He said: “We have to end the revolving door with people, often quite young people, going into prison, coming out of prison but being unable to get a job, claiming benefits, going back to crime and ending back in prison again.”

In America, some right-wing Republicans had realised that prison was not the answer, and was an expensive solution to the problem of rising crime, he said.

Mr Gummer added: “Some of those who are most associated with the right of the Republican Party now say that there has to be an alternative to prison in many more cases.”

He emphasised that for some people, especially violent criminals and those guilty of other serious offences, prison would remain the only appropriate sentence.

He felt that was especially the case for those guilty of “white collar” crimes and high-profile offenders, for whom being sent to prison was a particularly tough ordeal because of the shame they would feel.

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And he felt his party was in the best position to try to change the penal system. “Labour have no idea what to do about prison policy – to be honest their supporters are less keen on looking for alternatives than most Conservatives.

“From an economic point of view, it does not make sense to lock more and more people up, and the more people go to prison the more they get used to it.”

He felt some people saw prison as another form of welfare handout – providing free housing.

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