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Rebalancing the UK Justice System

Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke announced budget cuts asserting that his department will not spend on criminals but only for victims and the law-abiding public – a remark that smacks of punitive populism. Moreover, he proposes tougher prison reforms where inmates will have to work hard to earn their keep and to pay their victims and where prison should be confined to serious and violent offenders. The rest are to be imposed tougher community sentences to minimize government expenses. This bifurcated approach towards crime and sentencing are not, however, dissimilar to the Home Office Report published the Blair administration in 2006, where the proposed reforms were said to be geared to rebalance the scales of justice towards the victims and the public and away from the offenders. The only exception was that whilst the Labour government was ready to spend billions to ensure the success of their proposed reforms, the present dispensation would rather save its money. Moreover, the present proposals are not new. These were the same approaches of the Conservatives in 1987, approaches that had to be watered down because of their unfavorable outcome and later totally dropped because of public pressure. More importantly, the proposals are sweeping and do not take into account the theory of social exclusion, which considers factors that influence re-offending. The proposal to cut the budget especially for prisoners entails halting programmes, which studies have identified as important in reducing reoffending.

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