David Cameron was widely lambasted for his 'hug a hoodie' approach to criminal justice a few years ago. However, in the foreward to a insightful new report from the Criminal Justice Alliance, David Cameron's then speech writer, Ian Birrell, points out that the Prime Minister never did utter the infamous catch phrase. However, what he did say was far more interesting - he stressed that there is no hope in solving crime if they do not understand the complex causes of crime.
Reaction to the tone of Cameron's speech was one of controversy, it was viewed as a sort of political gaffe. Birrell finds this type of furor which builds up around more complex debates about crime and punishment as 'profoundly depressing'. Given the heated populist tenor of political and public discourse around the issue of crime, perhaps it is no wonder that Britain now sends more people to prison then any of their European counterparts.
It is hard not to be taken aback by the staggering increase in British imprisonment rates, which have doubled since 1992. The aim of the Criminal Justice Alliance Report is to try and explore and understand how other European countries - namely The Netherlands and Germany - have managed to reduced their imprisonment rates. The report offers a roadmap for a change in British penal policy, one which stresses alternatives to imprisonment. As Vicki Helyar-Calderwell, the director of the Criminal Justice Allaince surmises, 'an ever-expanding bloated penal system is not inevitable', greater reliance on restorative justice and mediation will help stem soaring prison populations and tackle crime.
Read the report here: Reducing the Use of Imprisonment - What we can learn from Europe