David Cameron: We must make prisons work for offenders


David Cameron: "Just being tough isn't a successful strategy in itself"

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There is no alternative to making "prisons work", David Cameron has said, insisting criminals can be punished and rehabilitated at the same time.

In a speech in London, he said the debate on crime and punishment had become too "black or white".

Serious offenders must be imprisoned, but jails must have a "positive impact" on inmates, he argued.

The PM has had a difficult few days, with Andrew Mitchell quitting as chief whip and confusion over energy policy.

In a long-planned speech to the Centre for Social Justice, Mr Cameron sought to regain the initiative by insisting crime was an issue that "matters to all of us" and rejected characterisations of his views from both the left and right of the political spectrum.

'Hoodie history'

He referred to comments he made while opposition leader in 2005, following which he was accused of wanting to "hug a hoodie".

Mr Cameron said: "For many people, I am associated with those three words, two of which begin with 'h' and one of which is hoodie... even though I never actually said it.

Start Quote

With the crime debate, people seem to want it black or white, 'lock 'em up or let 'em out, blame the criminal or blame society, 'be tough' or 'act soft”

End Quote David Cameron

"For others, I am the politician who has argued for tough punishment. So do I take a tough line on crime or a touchy-feely one?

"In no other debate do the issues get polarised like this... with the crime debate, people seem to want it black or white, 'lock 'em up' or 'let 'em out', blame the criminal or blame society, 'be tough' or 'act soft'."

Personal responsibility was at the heart of the criminal justice system, he stressed, meaning long prison sentences were the only "thinkable" punishment for certain serious offenders.

"This is what victims and society deserve... And the society bit matters. Retribution is not a dirty word; it is important to society that revulsion against crime is properly recognised, and acted on by the state on our behalf," he argued.

But echoing comments made by Tony Blair in the 1990s, Mr Cameron said the government must "think hard about dealing with the causes of crime" not just the results of crime.

This, he stressed, meant more emphasis on crime prevention and, at a time when budgets were being cut and prison numbers stretched, priority being given to reducing re-offending.

Critics have warned that Ken Clarke's replacement by Chris Grayling as justice secretary last month signalled a hardening of the approach on sentencing, but the prime minister said he was still as committed to a "rehabilitation revolution" for prisoners.

Rehabilitation revolution

Private firms and charities must be given an expanded role to work with all prisoners, not just those in prison for a year or more, he said, while the model of payments by results for such firms had to be accelerated.

"I say let's use that time we have got these people inside to have a proper positive impact on them... it is not a case of 'prison works' or 'prison does not work' - we need to make prison work better.

"And once people are on the outside, let's stick with them, and give then proper support."

Mr Grayling told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "We have to do this differently. We have got people coming back out onto the streets after prison who are as likely to reoffend again as not to reoffend.

"The benefit of a payment-by-results system is it forces the organisations working with you to look for what really does work because they don't get paid unless they do."

Plans were announced on Sunday to introduce a new offence of possessing firearms with an intention to supply them to others, carrying a maximum life sentence, designed to target "middle men" who import and traffic weapons for gangs.

Labour said the coalition had cut police numbers and budgets, circumscribed judges and "let victims down".

"If the government's going to make a serious announcement this week he (David Cameron) should explain why he's done nothing for the last 29 months and he's got to explain how these policies are going to be paid for," said shadow justice secretary Sadiq Khan.

Rhodri Davies, policy manager of the Charities Aid Foundation, said: "The prime minister is right that payment-by-results contracts have potential to help charities use their expertise to tackle intractable social problems such as reoffending.

"But ministers need to improve the way these contracts are designed so charities are not simply squeezed out in favour of large private sector providers."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 1218.

    justivevjustice, for your attention a high security unit is not a prison, not all people who end up in these places have been tried and convicted of a crime, some are just placed in these horrid places, for being too 'mental'(for society to deal with), I have worked with several people who were 'placed' in similar high secure units. Do not confuse these places with prisons.

  • Comment number 1217.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1216.

    Perhaps he and a few of his flat-swapping, police-abusing, restaurant-destroying, child neglecting cabinet cronies should spend a few years inside, and see if they come out as reformed characters?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1215.

    prisons are heaving because of our morally corrupt secular culture. too timid to even remove serial killers, rapists, pedophiles from the system.

    people need to repent, we all do - from the government and its collusion with the media / expenses fraud, to the newspapers hacking, the police colluding with the hackers, the bbc sheltering pedophiles

    repent before the final judgement of God.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1214.

    So Mr Cameron has set his focus on the disabled, the unemployed, the low paid and those on benifits, those convicted of a crime and...........

    Yet he has done little, and said even less, about the tax evaders, (companies of individuals), bankers, whose greed has helped fuel the recession, the laod sharks, preying on those most in need. MP's and their expenses.

    We know whose side Mr C is on then!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1213.

    at least fraud, misuse of power does not kill innocent people or rape women, men or children, our gov is crap, i never voted for a coalition, but i do like to see justice for these poor families done, why on earth are we paying for appeals??? the predators families should be paying the lawyer fee,s not us the tax payer, rejected you liberal by the way??? and do you support abu hamzsa

  • rate this

    Comment number 1212.

    justicevjustice, the fact is most of our prisons are not filled with murders and other alleged scumbags, they are filled with petty criminals. So stop twisting the truth to suit your propaganda. The majority of people in prison should probably be somewhere else. Whilst you are in prison you are not entitled to DLA, fact.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1211.

    all people who are in high security units such as Ashurst are entitled and get DLA due to their mental state of mind, i do know what i am talking about, give Ashurst a ring if you need hard facts. do you really condone murders and sexual perverts who abuse both women, men and children?????? i find it hard to blame petty criminals, but murderers and sexual predators are just so evil

  • rate this

    Comment number 1210.

    justicevjustice...whilst we lock up murderers and other alleged scumbags, we hand out knighthoods to bankers who destroyed our economy, who in-turn created an environment which has fueled crime. Shall we continue to blame the petty criminals (not murderers and other alleged scumbags) who are a product of the system, or the real culprits our Gov and their cronies?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1209.

    petty criminals, well, let them do community work, as long as its enforced!!! but brutal murders, sexual offenders, they are the worst of the worst, why has Ian Brady been allowed to live, by force feeding him, he is never going to say where that poor lad is, and he costs us about a million pounds a year, but people who have done worse than he has are back out in the community, is that right?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1208.

    1206. justicevjustice, we cannot prove beyond doubt, dna has recently been found to be fallible, so there is no way of proving beyond doubt other than a confession, which can be gained through duress. What has Disability Living Allowance got to do with the argument, you are clutching at daily mail straws.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1207.

    at least when we had hanging, well it was a good deterrent, ok, they made mistakes in the 50s/60,s but with the fantastic improvements to dna, well why do we have to pay for these scumbags, and please, don't defend the people who murder or rape there is no excuse!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1206.

    if proven beyond doubt for murder and sexual attacks then hang the sods, why the hell do we pay for them to watch sky, and receive DLA due to mental health issues????

  • rate this

    Comment number 1205.

    Ok BBC, It appears I made a booboo, I misspelled camaron, Im a moron... sorry, though I wouldn't class my dyslexia as homophobic, sexist or racist as you have.

    Any way payments by results haven't worked with ATOS or many other companies so where is the evidence they will work with prisons.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1204.

    I had a cousin who spent several terms in the clink 30 years ago.he went in weighing 13 stone and came out weighing 10.the reverse of the situation nowadays.

  • Comment number 1203.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1202.

    Cameron is already looking at large employers building facilities inside prisons to employ prisoners as a captive workforce. Tory soundbite, wait until companies stop opening businesses and only build inside jails due to cheap workforce. Workhouse for the 21st century, wait until misdemeanors become custodial offences. Tory master plan!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1201.

    He looks like he is under pressure. I mean if they took the ear piece out for one minute and spoke like men ( or women, Thatcher) it would be a start.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1200.

    cameron let`s all go to prison to get a job (the way forward let`s get tough)

  • rate this

    Comment number 1199.

    It's true, Western Capitalist Society has failed, going too far in giving Criminals rights, allowing corruption in the elite ruling classes, like Roman society we are effectively running our economy on slavery of the lowest tier. Will it end with a whimper or bang?, or will the Chinese just buy us all, as they are the only country with a long term plan.


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