Justice changes could help debt crisis says author

By Nigel Slater 20/01 Updated: 20/01 11:03

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Buy photos » Writer David Cornwell will present a lecture and debate session at Pershore Abbey next week on the current concerns of the justice system. 0312033NHR

A FORMER prison worker has said he believes major changes in the UK's criminal justice system will help boost the country's debt crisis.

David Cornwell, now an author from Kersoe near Evesham, said the Government could save itself billions of pounds by reducing the numbers of prisoners in the UK and toughening up community sentences.

The writer will discuss the current concerns of the justice system in a special lecture and debate session at Pershore Abbey on Thursday (January 26).

"We lock up far too many people, a lot of them fairly unnecessarily, and they must be a better way of delivering the justice system that doesn't go to locking people up," he told the Observer.

"We've reached 86,000 now in our prisons. There are 136 prisons and about 80 of them are over-filled so we have a system which is clogged up. Major changes need to happen.

"There are examples in other countries, such as Finland, where they have said no enough is enough its too expensive and have reduced the number of prisoners by thousands by adopting other means of punishment mainly dealing with offenders in the community.

"I know it's not flavour of the month for some people to say we should make less use of prisons but when it costs £40,000 a year to keep someone in prison, and that's the minimum cost, it doesn't make sense to expand the numbers."

Mr Cornwell, who visited more than 90 prisons when he was head of the security audit of the prison service, said the focus should be on the worst criminals.

"You need to do something about the serious offenders not the petty offenders who quite honestly can be given a perfectly good community work to do which could be beneficial to the community if it is organised properly," he added.

"For this to happen we have got to give the community sentence a lot more bite so it's a real sentence and not something people can take or leave.

"In a place like Evesham or Pershore you could have a community correction centre where they are not only put to work, they could also be paid a little bit for it with a slice going to the victims of crime."

The lecture, which starts at 7.30pm, has been organised by the Friends of Pershore Abbey and money raised will go towards maintenance costs for the building.

Tickets cost £10 are available from fashion store Blue in Broad Street or can be purchased on the door.

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