Let's put the right people behind bars

PRISONS policy in this country is in a dreadful mess - and beleaguered Home Secretary John Reid has clearly not got to grips with what is just one of a catalogue of problems at his department.

PRISONS policy in this country is in a dreadful mess - and beleaguered Home Secretary John Reid has clearly not got to grips with what is just one of a catalogue of problems at his department.

Comments by a judge in Wales that he was not jailing a paedophile because of Home Office instructions that only dangerous or persistent offenders should be given an instant prison sentence has really caused a stir.

That was appalling - if the judge thought he was dangerous, Derek Williams should have been jailed.

But what no one seems to be asking is why are the prisons so full? Could it be that they have too many of the wrong people locked up?

People who have been convicted of violent or persistent offences certainly should be sent down - but at present there are so many people in jail for the wrong reason that there isn't room for real dangers like the paedophile who collected thousands of hard-core computer images of children.

This country imprisons a greater proportion of its population than any other western European country - and yet the Home Secretary still says we need more cells.

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What is really needed is a better use of the cells we already have. They should be used for the real dangers to society, for those who really make life a misery for their victims. And that includes paedophiles like Williams.

Does it really serve any purpose to jail people like Arthur Burgess, the pensioner who persistently

Breached anti-social behaviour orders. He is clearly mentally ill - would not treatment be a better solution than a prison cell?

His cell would be better occupied by a young hoodlum who is given “last chance” after “last chance” after causing havoc in Gainsborugh or Whitton.

Caroline Fletcher was jailed after crashing a car filled with children while several times over the drink-drive limit. She clearly has an alcohol problem - again treatment would be a far better solution.

Then her cell could be used for a longer sentence for drug dealers who bring death to our streets.

Prisons are a necessary evil - but their cells have to be used for the right people. They must be used to make society safer and not a dustbin for people that other agencies have abandoned.

When that happens there will be room for the paedophiles, the drug dealers, the persistnent louts to get the punishment they deserve.

ROLL up for the bargain of the year! Tomorrow Ipswich Town take on Swansea for a place in the last 16 of the FA Cup - the time when the regal arch of the new Wembley starts to appear above the horizon.

Tickets are at a discounted price for all supporters and the team needs the Portman Road crowd to roar them on into the fifth round.

Swansea will bring their own fanatical supporters to help build the atmosphere at Portman Road - the Tractor Boys need our own fans to help drive them on to the next round of the cup.

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