Events in UK politics are moving so fast at the moment that it is hard to know what will be the composition of the British cabinet by the end of this Bank Holiday weekend. Reuters, along with other news media is reporting that five of the foreign nationals released from British gaols – who should have been deported back to their original countries – have re-offended. The scandal of the released overseas prisoners back on the British streets looks set to send Charles Clarke down the political U-bend.
All very bad and I weep no tears for the jug-eared Home Secretary. A thought does occur to me, though. We make a fuss about foreign prisoners being released onto the streets rather than being deported, and of course a primary duty of a government is to protect its citizens from foreign menaces. But many thousands of British-born prison inmates who are released from often pathetically short sentences re-offend too. A few years ago I was mugged, an experience all too common in London, and it is frankly no difference to me whether the person was a foreign re-offender or British.
The negligence of Clarke’s department means he must resign, in my view. But let us not, in our understanderble desire to send these creeps, fools and knaves to the political dustbin, ignore some rather basic facts of penal life. My problem is not simply that we should send offenders back to their country of origin, it is that we send them to prison for often insanely short sentences in the first place.