UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has pledged to increase police stop-and-search powers and to create an extra 10,000 places in prisons, saying he wants “criminals to be afraid – not the public.”
The jail cells will be created by building new prisons and expanding existing ones, in what the PM called a “long overdue” investment of up to £2.5 billion ($ 3 billion). Johnson said the pledge is to ensure he follows through on campaign promises to “properly punish” criminals.
In the Mail on Sunday, Johnson wrote that he wanted to “improve the criminal justice system and make sure criminals are serving the time they are sentenced to” after it was revealed that some prisoners were automatically released halfway through their sentences due to overcrowding.
However, the PM is being accused of ignoring the causes of crime and pushing Britain, which already has the highest rate of imprisonment in Western Europe, toward an incarceration culture. The plan was deemed “great for headlines but crap for justice” by Labour MP David Lammy. Meanwhile, Labour’s shadow policing minister, Louise Haigh, claimed Britain’s criminal justice system is broken because of “Tory austerity, not ‘left wingers.’”
The rebooted pro-prison rhetoric from government is likely to drive up imprisonment numbers, warned the director of the Prison Reform Trust, Peter Dawson. He said that the latest figures suggest it would take 9,000 new spaces just to eliminate current overcrowding, and that’s before the inevitable spike.
“We know the aggressive rhetoric of ‘prison works’ invariably drives up the use of imprisonment long before the capacity to deal with that has been created,” Dawson told the Independent.
“Half-baked policy on prisons always runs up against inconvenient reality. Tough rhetoric is no substitute for understanding the evidence,” he added.
Johnson also confirmed that a pilot scheme, introduced in seven police forces last March, that allows officers to stop and search people they believe may commit a crime, will be expanded to 43 forces across England and Wales.
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