One of the more fatuous comments on the recent riots came in Parliament today from Jack Straw who invited the Government to move even further away from Ken Clarke's proposals than they have already. Put rioting to one side for the moment & realise that the re-offending rate for 18 to 25yrolds of over 70% within two years of release versus the cost of imprisonment represents failure on a heroic scale. There has to be a better way. When one also realises that a huge number of prisoners have mental health & other problems it is clear that other ways exist. When it comes to punishing young people, if my numerous teenage grandchildren & their friends are any guide, what would REALLY punish them is to deprive them, for a period, of access to mobile phones, iPods, MP3 and all the other electronic gizmos without which their lives are apparently unsustainable. One should also look to the success of Kids Company & other initiatives where the success is measurable & substantial.
All this is long(ish) term and should not be blown off course by the immediate need to give the rioters & looters a seriously swift & sharp lesson. Moreover such little evidence as there is suggests that there will always be 10% or so who will simply spit efforts to help them back in your face. That's more than enough to produce a rioting mob. We should recognise the existence of this minority & indeed treat them severely and stop devoting disproportionate resources in a one size fits all determination to redeem everybody.