Gary's News and views

Gary Streeter MP for South West Devon

Gary writes a weekly article which appears in the Plympton Plymstock and Ivybridge News in South West Devon. The articles are published here.


Thursday, 25 February 2010

Being a mere man I drive around with my eyes closed (I prefer to think I am grappling with global issues), but when Jan is with me she constantly points out how much litter there is by the side of the road. Have a look for yourself today. Whether along the Parkway, the A38 or the A379 our verges are full of rubbish. Given that this area is a centre for tourism, this is an appalling state of affairs. Given what we all pay in council tax, it is also unacceptable for locals.
As council budgets get increasingly under pressure we cannot expect them to pour more money into this problem and clean up our roads (or pick up the grass once they have cut it, another pet hate). Yet it seems to me that there is a solution.
Our prisons are bursting at the seams. Re-offending rates in the UK are some of the highest in Europe but for people serving less than six months they go through the roof. Recent surveys suggest that this is because first time offenders serving just a few months receive a sufficient taste of criminality to be hardened by it, but there is inadequate time for the authorities to rehabilitate them. So these young men (usually) come out better criminals. Short custodial sentences may be more trouble than they are worth.
There are two options: lock people away for longer so that there is a chance to get them back on the straight and narrow, or to take a fresh look at robust non-custodial sentences.
I have not gone soft in my old age, but for certain non-violent crimes we may have to beef up our community service programmes. Too often these are badly organised and may not seem like punishment, with little come back if offenders do not show up. This is unacceptable. But if we could marshal our forces better, offenders could be set to work on tasks that do not seem to get done anymore: like picking up roadside litter and council-cut grass. It would surely constitute a proper punishment to have to don a bright yellow tabard and turn up on time to work for eight hours picking up rubbish in a gang of fellow convicts, day after day. It may even instil much needed discipline into the lives of the wrongdoer and they would not be competing with people trying to make an honest living.

posted by Gary @ 09:34