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January 15, 2007

Gordon Brown and the Prisons

Posted by Jeremy Black

At a time when Gordon Brown's record as Chancellor is held up by Labour - as well as by outside commentators that ought to know better - as proof of his ability, it is worth noting that his record provides many targets worthy of attention. The attack on dividends, which helped drive investment income into a far less beneficial housing inflation, is well known, but the Chancellor's sorry impact on law-and-order is less prominent.

Under Brown, the Treasury proved singularly unwilling to invest in new prisons. I use the term invest deliberately because without such investment it is impossible to respond adequately to changing demands, both the shifting standards that ensure that some old prisons are no longer fit for purpose, and demands in the shape of changing policies in sentencing. Thus, we arrive at the situation in which a government that is happy to legislate in order to create new custodial offences is unwilling to provide the prisons to incarcerate those who are convicted. This definitely is not joined up government, and Gordon Brown bears a large responsibility for the current mess.

Jeremy Black is Professor of History, University of Exeter.

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