David Blackburn

Ken Clarke contra mundum

Ken Clarke contra mundum
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What to make of Sadiq Khan and Ken Clarke? As Pete has noted, Khan (and Ed Miliband) empathises with Ken Clarke’s instincts. But, as Sunder Katwala illustrates, Khan’s support is qualified. Khan gave speech last night after which he took questions. One of his answers was as follows:

"It's no use us wanting to cuddle Ken Clarke - I don't want to cuddle Ken Clarke but perhaps others do - when he is part of a government which has got policies which will see the number of people committing crime going up."

black hole

With a 20 percent cut looming, these objections are valid. Clarke’s problem is particularly acute because of his ministerial inheritance. As I’ve written before, funding for prisoners’ remedial programmes never matched the 27 percent rise in prisoner numbers under the previous government. Clarke’s answer is simple: send fewer people to prison and ensure they don’t reoffend.

Clarke’s simple answer envisages some ambitious structural reforms. The Justice Green Paper concentrated on integrating approaches to rehabilitation. Drawing on the example of IMPACT in Bristol, Clarke wants local authorities to work with charities and the probation service to deliver 'Integrated Offender Management'. Probationers will be supported in their efforts to overcome addiction and unemployment, as well as accessing entitlements to accommodation and benefits. The voluntary sector will share responsibility with the probation service and Clarke hopes to incentivise its involvement with schemes such as the social impact bond. Rehabilitation in prisons will also be stimulated, with pilot schemes to arrest drug abuse, mental illness and illiteracy. Most of the anticipated capital costs will fall here.

The plan is ambitious, but its specifics are far from controversial. Besides sentencing, the green paper’s most liberal profession is to suggest that ‘spent’ convictions are eradicated from CVs. Overall, the paper’s tone is arch – even the criminal justice system’s remedial projects emphasise punishment, and it promises swift retribution on reoffending. Clarke has support in principle, but he needs to find the necessary sum to convince those on the left. Then comes the right.