Today the Chancellor, George Osborne gave his Autumn Statement or ‘mini budget’ to the Commons and announced no help for the unemployed and certainly no hope for unemployed ex-offenders; indeed, in monetary and most other terms, if you have a criminal record and cannot pay your bills, you may well be better off in prison than living in the community.
For unemployed sex offenders and others with a criminal record – often highly qualified and experienced but also with no chance of a normal life after release – Osborne’s announcement today that benefits will be cut for the next three years and the fact that there is a total lack of help from the government, prison may offer the only chance of a roof over their head and three meals a day.
The flagship ‘Work Programme’ is a disaster; employers will not even give an interview to anyone with a criminal record and police and probation officers are only to ready to wreck the prospects of ex-offenders who are fortunate enough to find a job by revealing details of offences to potential employers.
Work and employment courses in prison are effectively nothing more than an exercise and, as TheOpinionSite.org has pointed out many times, fail to recognize the very real difficulties faced by those with serious convictions seeking work after release.
In true ‘nasty party’ style, David Cameron and his cronies have written off hundreds of thousands of people with criminal records, forcing taxpayers to pay for convicted people living in the community.
Instead of helping offenders back into society, the government has tried to make political capital this week by creating yet more criminal offences and announcing longer and mandatory sentences designed solely to satisfy Conservative backbench MPs, the tabloid press, money-grabbing charities and lobby groups.
It is hardly surprising therefore that one ex-offender has told TheOpinionSite.org that he will probably deliberately reoffend in order to get a long prison sentence because he feels that he will be ‘better off in prison than on the outside’.
For those even without a criminal record but with no job and no money, Osborne’s statement today promises nothing but more pain. For those who do have a record, the statement promises absolute misery – for life.
The Secretary of State for Justice, Chris Grayling has said he wants “…to see more people locked up” whilst completely ignoring the damage and cost to society that will result from following such a doctrine for what are his own purely political reasons.
When he was questioned, Grayling said that under the new mandatory sentencing regime, introduced to replace the discredited IPP sentence (Indeterminate Sentences for Public Protection), “…a small number of people will go to prison for much longer.”
That is exactly what the disgraced former Home Secretary, David Blunkett said when he introduced the IPP in the first place – and ended up jailing 6,500 individuals for life.
This government’s obsession with populist policies is as appalling as that of Tony Blair’s administration, pandering to those who make their living from maintaining public fear of violent and sexual offenders whilst giving no thought whatsoever to what happens when those prisoners are eventually released from prison.
This week has also seen the jailing of 70 and 80 year old men for sexual offences alleged to have been committed 50 and 60 years ago, something that would not happen in any other European country as it is effectively a death sentence; convictions arrived at with no evidence other than the word of the complainant.
Juries, frightened to death of not convicting anyone charged with a so called ‘historic’ sexual offence for fear of criticism, inadequate and incompetent defence counsel forced upon the defendant by cuts to legal aid together with a public anxious to offload responsibility for their own miserable lives onto anyone who is charged with any emotive offence, have all caused an increase in conviction rates and the long-term prison population.
Nevertheless, with the provision of a guarantee of a roof over their head, free medical care and three meals a day guaranteed, it is still the fact that with no life now possible outside, many people found guilty of publicly sensitive offences may indeed feel better off in prison.
Local councils are reluctant to house ex-offenders when there are 7,000,000 ‘ordinary’ members of the public on the waiting list for social housing; prisoner support groups have run out of money and Job Centres have told TheOpinionSite.org that there is nothing they can do for those who have been released from custody having served long sentences for ‘serious’ offences.
With almost any personal contact between two people now being able to be translated into a ‘serious sexual or violent offence’ if one party decides to lodge a complaint with the police, previously employed individuals find themselves easily convicted and with no hope for a normal life when and if they are released.
Ministers are only interested in votes and re-election; charities, solicitors and self-styled ‘child protection experts’ make millions of pounds from ‘exposing’ alleged historic offences whilst encouraging those dissatisfied with their life to make accusations that may or may not be true but which will result in automatic compensation being paid.
One well known firm of abuse solicitors even have a calculator on their website designed to work out how much a claimant will receive, dependent on the gravity of the alleged abuse.
Police officers, anxious to protect their own jobs urge people to ‘come forward’, even if those people don’t actually want to; probation officers take every opportunity to write pre-sentence reports insisting, often against the evidence (or lack of it) that a convicted person is ‘dangerous’ and at ‘high risk of reoffending’ even if that person is nothing of the sort; the NSPCC and other organisations hype up the figures saying that a child is ‘abused’ every minute.
Domestic Violence lawyers are now also cashing in on the ease with which convictions can be attained, especially if they are ‘historic’.
All these people and organisations make it even more difficult than it would normally be for released offenders to find work, find housing or live anything resembling a ‘normal’ life by saying that such offenders can never be rehabilitated, never reformed and never be trusted again.
With even more people being jailed for longer, a reduction in early release following the new Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act, a huge cut in Legal Aid and a desire to please those with vested interests in locking up more and more individuals and ‘protecting the public’, it has now become almost impossible for any released person with serious convictions to survive outside of prison.
Little wonder then that so many convicted people feel that they really might be better off inside rather than out.
And before those sanctimonious people with jobs, families and homes start gloating and screaming, “Well, it’s their own fault; if you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime” etc, they should understand that under the laws active in Britain today, anyone who has ever had any type of personal relationship with another person can now be accused, tried and convicted of an offence that will lose them their job, wreck their family and lose them their home, even if there is little or no evidence.
TheOpinionSite.org would suggest that those same ‘respectable’ members of the public should be very careful about criticising those who have been convicted as, without any warning whatsoever, an event from 30 or 40 years ago could suddenly materialise on their doorstep at 6.00am in the morning in the form of seven or eight police officers who will willingly rip their life apart, based purely on the unsubstantiated complaint of a former girlfriend, boyfriend, wife, husband, pupil or ex-colleague.
Once that happens, that ‘respectable’ individual’s life will be over for ever and, ironically, they too may find themselves better off in prison than trying to survive on no money, with no home, no family, no job and with no one around to support them in the community.
(Discuss this further in our exclusive Members Only Forum)