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Go to jail.

FOUR-year prison sentences will mean 18 months, two years equals six months, have we all fallen down the rabbit hole into Wonderland?

No, it is the latest Government plan to deal with a soaring prison population now standing at a record 77,599, thanks to a spurt in the last six months and in particular the last month.

Once again we have the situation where prisoners have had to be held in police cells while anxious calls are made all over the country to find where they might be incarcerated.

Controversially, the Government wants to ease the problem by letting out thousands of prisoners early and using electronic tagging and curfews to keep them under control.

The UK, remember, already jails a bigger percentage of people than anyone else in Western Europe. Too often our knee-jerk reaction to any crime epidemic is to use the jail option more.

We think it is about time this country took a clear-eyed, dispassionate look at what it wants to do with criminals, to punish or to rehabilitate.

Yes, there are some serious offenders who are so dangerous that they belong behind bars, but many others - such as the pensioners who didn't pay the council tax - should not be.

Prisons are hugely costly and extremely inefficient at preventing future crime. We need to look at the alternatives, perhaps including hard labour, for the petty thieves, the dangerous drivers and the fine defaulters who are unnecessarily cluttering up our jails when they might be learning better elsewhere.

Or else we have to fall back on the tired policy being advocated by Tory leadership candidate David Davis of building yet more prisons at yet more cost.

Mrs T at 80

TODAY is a special day in UK politics, the 80th birthday of Baroness Thatcher.

She truly was a phenomenon in 20th-century politics and she left her mark - both as the first woman prime minister, the longest-serving premier and a person who single-handedly took the whole of British politics in a right-wing direction, so that today we have a Labour PM who stands to the right of Baroness Thatcher's predecessor as Tory PM, Edward Heath.

But it should not be forgotten how divisive her politics were, a division that is reflected nicely in the guests at today's celebration - Tony Blair but not Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy, pointedly David Davis and Liam Fox of the Tory leadership candidates not David Cameron or Kenneth Clarke.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Huddersfield Daily Examiner (Huddersfield, England)
Date:Oct 13, 2005
Words:407
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