Ken Clarke blamed the riots that swept across the UK on a penal system that failed to deal with the reoffending of ‘a feral underclass’. The Justice Secretary revealed that three-quarters of over-18s charged with the summer riots had criminal records in an article for the Guardian.
Clarke blamed ‘a feral underclass, cut off from the mainstream in everything but its materialism’ and said sentencing for offenders had been ‘about right’. ‘In my view, the riots can be seen in part as an outburst of outrageous behaviour by the criminal classes – individuals and families familiar with the justice system, who haven’t been changed by their past punishments.’
Meanwhile, the campaign group the Howard League for Penal Reform published a report on how punitive responses to youth crime were failing as ‘evidenced by the highest reoffending rates of any age group, with almost three quarters of under 18s going on to reoffend after leaving prison’.
Life Outside: Collective identity, Collective exclusion followed the fate of young people who left custody and were under the supervision of youth offending teams in the community. ‘The collective exclusion that young people feel may well have played its part in why disorder flared on the streets of London and elsewhere this summer,’ commented chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, Frances Crook. ‘But we would be wise to think twice before perpetuating responses that simply serve to exacerbate that exclusion and which fail to unpick the reasons why young people commit crime in the first place.’ The conditions imposed when a young person leaves prison served ‘only to criminalise further young people, and exclude them from positive relationships with professionals; their families and their communities’.
Jon is editor of the Justice Gap. He is a freelance journalist. Jon's books include The First Miscarriage of Justice (Waterside Press, 2014), The Justice Gap (LAG, 2009) and People Power (Daily Telegraph/LawPack, 2008). Jon is a journalism lecturer at Winchester University and a visiting senior fellow in access to justice at the University of Lincoln. He is twice winner of the Bar Council's journalism award (2015 and 2005) and is shortlisted for this year's Criminal Justice Alliance's journalism award