When jail is just

In his article making several good points, why does Pete Martin (9 February) also say: “Even though crime rates have been falling for years, the daily figure here is around 8,500” prisoners, implying that is too high, without referring to the possible cause and effect?

Would it not be a logical consequence of locking up a high number of serial and even first-time offenders that the crime rate then falls? Clearly there are many in jail who should not be there. But we need to recognise that prison does work in its limited but over-riding objective of protecting the public from violent thugs or serial criminals for the duration.

Also, we need to accept that many are not in jail, or are but not for long enough, who manifestly should be, requiring enough prison capacity to cover such situations as:

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l Giving consecutive rather than concurrent sentences for multiple crimes, particularly for repeat offenders;

l Improving procedures to reduce cases where the clearly guilty win due to technicalities or prosecution incompetence;

l Early releases for so-called good behaviour (rather than the reverse);

l Clearly inadequate sentencing in the first instance, or incomprehensible reductions on appeal – double jeopardy, now at last reformed.

Whether or not such capacity would be offset by those who should be dealt with non-custodially, or who are in jail wrongly, or who have clearly received excessive sentences, is another question.

John Birkett

Horseleys Park

St Andrews