One aspect of particular interest to us in the cabinet reshuffle is the position of Justice Secretary. That title has moved from Ken Clarke to Chris Grayling.
This has been met with equal measure of joy and despair by those who care to comment on these issues. Francis Crook the CEO of the Howard League for penal reform described Mr Clarke as “a breath of fresh air” and praised his work at the Ministry of Justice for saving money and lives and not grabbing for the cheap headline.
Certainly Mr Clarke was a different Justice Secretary to one that many of the Conservative Party would have wished for. I commented on the problems he was facing as early as December 2010. I got my timing wrong, he lasted another 21 months, but he has been replaced by someone further to the right of the political spectrum.
Chris Grayling is likely to be a more hard line Justice Secretary than Ken Clarke and this is something that will undoubtedly please the grassroots vote of the party, but I hope that he doesn’t lose sight of the need to reform the Justice system and the good work that Ken Clarke has already started.
I am constantly amazed at how simplified people try and make the prison/community sentence/rehabilitation/punishment argument.
There is no definite, no black and white when you think about criminal justice. The need to remain flexible and deal with criminals as people is key.
The “Lock them all up” approach doesn’t work and a poorly run and managed community sentence regime is equally flawed.
There needs to be continued reform of the system holistically so that an efficient prison regime dovetails into a complimentary community sentence scheme that delivers value for money and protects the public whilst giving the offender the necessary support to start again.
I do not believe that this will be an easy task. Criminal Justice is a significant political ‘hot potato’ and there is rarely the money there to deliver a perfect system. However it seemed that Ken Clarke was on the right path.
I hope it continues.