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Prisons and Courts Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 7:13 pm on 20th March 2017.

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Photo of Edward Garnier Edward Garnier Conservative, Harborough 7:13 pm, 20th March 2017

I do not have an argument with that at all. The argument for making our prisons work for the public as a whole, for the victims of crime and for prisoners is not just moral and political, but economic. We push hundreds of millions of pounds into the criminal justice and prison systems, and what do we do with that investment? We produce failure. If the prison system was a business or a factory, and if I, as the managing director of that business or factory, pushed millions and millions of pounds into the process, but the things that I produced broke or failed 65% of the time, I would get the sack or my investors would go elsewhere. That is the economic argument. It happens to be bolstered by a moral argument and a political argument that we need to do better on prisons, but I do not resile from the fact that the money that we spend on prisons is not well spent, because it does not produce a lower rate of reoffending, or teach people to read and write so that they can get jobs.

Some 95% or 98% of the 85,000 people currently in prison will come out. I have sat as a judge for 20-odd years. I have put plenty of people into prison for perfectly good reasons, but if they come out of prison still addicted to drugs, still mentally ill, still unable to read or write and still incapable of getting a job, and if they then reoffend because they have no other ambition but to do what they have always done, which is to commit crime, what I am sensibly doing with the public’s money? Not much. It seems to me that there should be a perfectly straightforward economic consensus. Forget whether I am a lily-livered liberal—[Interruption.] Of course, my hon. Friend Philip Davies and I belong to the same political party and, although he is rather more expert than me, we both take an interest in racing.