THE recent decision by the English government to release some prisoners a little early, and the predictable media outrage, highlights once again the fact that the UK has an unhealthy obsession with retribution. Every time crime statistics are published there is a clamour for more people to be locked up, and for longer.

Our prison population is the highest in western Europe, and reoffending rates are also higher than all of our neighbours. This combination creates an inexorable increase in demand for more and more prison places.

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Why are our governments, north and south of the Border, incapable of reading these indicators?

It must be obvious to anyone not steeped in populist politics that we need a complete change of direction for prisons from being principally about punishment to essentially about reform and rehabilitation.

In the short term this would require additional expenditure, but in the long term it would pay back many fold, both in prison costs and community security.

I’m not holding my breath!

Cameron Crawford