At the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham, the Justice Secretary, the Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss, MP for South West Norfolk, made an impressive undertaking to address the decades old problems in our prisons.
Her department separated from the Home Office a few years ago in this area of responsibility, but the domain of failure hasn’t changed, largely because officialdom remains liberal and averse to traditional reforms. In my past years of Conservative Party membership, having attended many conferences, I have heard a succession of Home Secretaries, either shadow or in post, talk tough on penal policy, but their efforts have been stifled by pedantic bureauracy and barriers put up by the senior civil service classes.
History has shown that there are votes for political parties in locking up criminals but not how they are processed through our prisons, and I will be surprised if anything will change. The Justice Secretary announced that there would be 400 new prison officer jobs performed by ex-Army personnel as a means of restoring discipline to our penal institutions, yet this is a strategy turning full circle. I know from previous government service this sort of employment used to be custom and practice up to about 30 – 40 years ago. The liberal assembly changed the recruitment and training criteria to sociology at the expense of discipline, so the targeting of ex-servicemen largely ceased.
Will a modest number of 400 specialised new officers improve more than 100 prisons? I have my doubts given the preponderance of resistant, left-wing orthodoxies in a variety of professions which pervade Whitehall. The problem of crime starts with school curriculums based on relative amorality, subjugation of the 3 Rs, feckless parenting and inadequate peer groups.
I wish the Rt Hon lady well in her venture and I hope she doesn’t end up broken-hearted like her predecessors.
David Fleming, Paradise Court, Downham Market