Boris Johnson’s Prison Policy: A Fantasy Built on an Invention

When politicians make summer law and order announcements involving big round numbers, it is time to count your spoons and prepare for an autumn election. Boris Johnson is a serial offender. In July he announced 20,000 more police. Now he says he will provide 10,000 more prison places. These are bogus figures in every way. The fact that they are easily remembered numbers should have the public on their guard, especially in the light of Mr Johnson’s shameless false claims about NHS spending during the EU referendum campaign.

 The 10,000 prison places are a particularly fraudulent announcement. On Sunday, Mr Johnson framed this figure as “part of a wider crackdown on crime” that aims “to keep the public safe”. The message is that his is a get-tough, crack-down, bang-’em-up government. Those extra police will be helping to send extra criminals to jails, which are being expanded to accommodate them.

 Except that this is simply not going to happen. Mr Johnson’s announcement is based on the sham claim that the figures are new. But they have been around for years, in a different context. Britain still houses many prisoners in overcrowded and dilapidated buildings. The prison service itself has already said that it would take 9,000 new places simply to eliminate overcrowding. The Prison Reform Trust, a lobbying organisation, says a further 3,000 new spaces are needed to absorb the longer sentences that today’s prisoners are serving. In other words, the new 10,000 is nothing to do with cracking down and everything to do with managing what is already happening.

 Read more: Guardian,,

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