“Tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime”

Isabelle Anderson, Green Party candidate for Stratford and New Town ward, explains how the Green policies on crime would tackle the true causes of crime in Newham. For a safer Newham, vote Green on May 7th

Despite reported crime levels falling, residents do not feel safer
Despite reported crime levels falling, residents do not feel safer

Anyone remember this mantra, beloved of Tony Blair and his New Labour government which swept to power in 1997? Since that time, under both New Labour and a Con-Dem coalition, we have seen the introduction of a raft of new criminal justice measures. The UK is about to get its first supersize ‘Titan prison’ in Wrexham with space for more than 2000 inmates. Our civil liberties have been threatened by legislation under a series of ‘Terrorism Acts’, which introduced detention without charge and Control Orders that enable the government to hold individuals under effective ‘house arrest’ for indeterminate periods of time. And austerity too has had an impact; with cuts made to legal aid and the probation service privatised.

Then came 2010 and the introduction of a record number of new laws – 3,506 in total [1]. So shouldn’t we all feel much safer? Despite a year on year fall in crime since 1995, polls show that the majority of people still believe that the crime rate is rising [2]. This is borne out by my experience on the doorsteps, talking to residents around Stratford and New Town. Many cite crime as an important issue and express feelings of fear and isolation. Yesterday, the Newham Recorder reported that our borough has been ranked as one of the worst in London for 13 separate crimes, including violent crimes such as rape and grievous bodily harm [3]. While the rates of many crimes including burglary and theft have fallen in Newham, violent crimes have increased.

If previous governments have been so ‘tough’ on crime and its causes, why does this issue remain high on the agenda? The prison population in the UK is higher than ever before, with more people imprisoned than in any other European country. And yet, despite the tough punitive approach taken, crime remains a problem.

The Green Party takes a radically different approach to crime and justice. We believe that the principle causes of crime are poverty, lack of opportunity and poor community cohesion. Take the following statistics [4]:

  •  60% of offenders have no qualifications;
  • 48% have literacy skills below those expected of an 11 year old;
  • 67% were unemployed at the time of imprisonment;
  • 71% suffer from two or more mental disorders;
  • There is more crime in unequal societies.
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Nationally, Green policies on crime are more popular than other parties (source: vote for policies website)

By addressing inequality, redistributing wealth and improving quality of life, we can reduce crime and create a society in which we all feel safe. Green Party policy on crime places emphasis first and foremost on education, employment and security for all. We would shift the focus of the justice system away from punishment and make rehabilitation and reparation a priority. Reoffending rates are at a record high and more than half of criminals handed prison sentences of less than 12 months will reoffend [5]. This proves that prison and retributive sentencing does not work. Effective justice must involve community participation rather than being imposed from above. Restorative justice, that is community-based justice, can empower victims and improve social cohesion. Prison sentences would be reserved for the most serious crimes. In addition, the Green Party would:

  • Focus on crime prevention measures, including more community police, more local police stations, and increase resources for caretakers, attendants and railway station staff.
  • Abolish Police and Crime Commissioners, and return control of the police to local government.
  • Treat drug addiction as a health issue.
  • Restrict police use of random stop and search powers and end the disproportionate targeting of of BME communities.
  • Oppose the privatisation of policing and of the probation service.

To tackle the true causes of crime, for a safer Newham, vote Green on 7th May 2015.

Sources:

[1] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-13569604
[2] http://www.theguardian.com/local-government-network/2013/aug/01/crime-falling-people-dont-feel-safer
[3] http://www.newhamrecorder.co.uk/news/newham_is_in_bottom_five_boroughs_for_13_crimes_1_4051947
[4] https://www.greenparty.org.uk/assets/files/manifesto/Green_Party_2015_General_Election_Manifesto_Searchable.pdf
[5] https://www.gov.uk/government/policies/reducing-reoffending-and-improving-rehabilitation/supporting-pages/transforming-rehabilitation

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