Woolf challenges crime and punishment rhetoric
In a move that will increase pressure on the Home Secretary to look at ìrestorativeî rather than ìretributiveî approaches to crime, the Lord Chief Justice has called for a "change in rhetoric" on crime and punishment as part of a drive to cut Britain's soaring prison population.
Lord Woolfís comments come after a similar statement from the Bishop of Birmingham a week ago, who said imprisoning more criminals was "ineffective, inappropriate and expensive" and did very little to tackle the roots of the offending.
Lord Woolf has given his support to a study that claims an increase in tougher sentencing, and not in crime, is to blame for the rising number of inmates.
The report, commissioned by the Prison Reform Trust and conducted by South Bank University, found that the chances of being jailed for driving while disqualified had tripled since 1991.
And the number of offenders imprisoned for more than four years had increased by 62 per cent.
The result is a 71 per cent increase in the number of adult inmates.
"This important report shows that there is an answer to the continually increasing prison population," said Lord Woolf.
"The answer is a change in rhetoric from all those with a leading role in the criminal justice system."
The report will increase pressure on Home Secretary David Blunkett to explore alternatives to prison, including ìrestorative justiceî schemes that have a strong theological foundation.
Both the Bishop of Birmingham and Lord Woolf have spoken out in support of such approaches to criminal justice which help to bring offenders and victims together, and work out sentencing outside prisons wherever possible.
It was revealed last week that Britain's prison population has risen to a new high of 73,627, a European high at 139 per 100,000 people.