Remembering three young men murdered by rioting thugs
Daylife/AP Photo used by permission
The justice secretary, Kenneth Clarke, has blamed the riots that swept across England last month on a “broken penal system” that has failed to rehabilitate a group of hardcore offenders he describes as the “criminal classes”…
Writing in the Guardian, Clarke dismisses criticism of the severity of sentences handed down to rioters and said judges had been “getting it about right”. However, he adds that punishment alone was “not enough”.
“It’s not yet been widely recognised, but the hardcore of the rioters were in fact known criminals. Close to three quarters of those aged 18 or over charged with riot offences already had a prior conviction. That is the legacy of a broken penal system – one whose record in preventing reoffending has been straightforwardly dreadful.”
He says: “In my view, the riots can be seen in part as an outburst of outrageous behaviour by the criminal classes – individuals and families familiar with the justice system, who haven’t been changed by their past punishments.”
Clarke uses his intervention to call for the coalition government to adopt a “renewed mission” in response to the riots that addressed an “appalling social deficit”.
His comments will reignite the debate on the causes of the disturbances, which the prime minister, David Cameron, has said “were not about poverty”…I agree.
“There is an urgent need for some rigorous social research which will look, without prejudice, at the causes and the consequences of the recent riots,” Professor Tim Newburn said. “Crucially, it is vital that we speak with those involved in the disturbances and those affected by them to try to understand any lessons for public policy…”
Clarke writes: “The general recipe for a productive member of society is no secret. It has not changed since I was inner-cities minister 25 years ago. It’s about having a job, a strong family, a decent education and beneath it all, an attitude that shares in the values of mainstream society. What is different now is that a growing minority of people in our nation lack all of those things and indeed, have substituted an inflated sense of expectations for a commitment to hard graft.”
Not especially different from what we witness, case by case, incident by separate incident on the nightly news here in New Mexico. The culture of repeat offenders let loose on society time after time – until that day when one or a few commit commit some crime horrific enough to get the attention of politicians and pundits.
When the furor dies down the courts/jails/police revert to being a revolving door.