Given the recent histrionics surrounding the Parole Board, I have wanted to write something on this for some time. In the interests of clarity, this is not a comment on any one particular case.
We have a legal system in this country which has been developed over centuries by people who have the knowledge and training to understand the law. For a fair system, these developements have to be undertaken rationally and with no associated emotion. Emotion clouds logic and rationality. Whilst our system is not perfect (I know more than most), it’s the one we have to operate within.
For politicians and the media to try to manipulate the law to suit their own agenda is not just wrong but dangerous; and please, do not think they get involved for the benefit of the people; politicians do it to get re-elected and the media do it to make money from higher circulation of their newspapers.
Trial Judge’s hear all the evidence and pass a sentence which is proportionate within the law. The prisoners have to demonstrate that they have reduced their risk to the public; and whilst I would question the role of prison psychologist’s in this, it remains that we have to believe that, as human beings, we all have the power to become better people. The Parole Board, like the trial judge, assesses all of the evidence to come to a rational decision. If that prisoner has met all of the targets he has been set, and evidence is provided that his risk has been reduced enough, he has to be paroled.
Of course, if he has a life licence, he can be recalled to prison for the most minor of ‘offence’; like being late to a probation meeeting. Effectively, he is now owned by the state and will never again be truly free (although, it’s arguable that we are all owned by the state and none of us are ever free).
The role of the prison is not one of revenge: it’s to rehabilitate. Pursuing prisoners when they have demonstated positive change and a reduction in their risk damages the core values of our society; it also continues to victimise the families and the children of these prisoners. I hear you say: “what about the victims of the crimes?” I am in no way dismissing what anyone goes through when they are attacked, robbed, beaten or abused, but, the serving of a prison sentence pays the ‘debt’ to society; and whilst you may think that sentences are too lenient, take it from someone who knows, going to prison destroys your life and those around you; it is difficult to come back from something that is destructive.
If you don’t agree with me, just imagine a society where no-one is given the opportunity to redeem themselves; a society where there is no forgiveness; a society where there is no hope. A fundamental aspect to controlling the prison population (and population as a whole) is the existence of hope; your dreams of a better life are built on this. Take this away and society breaks down; in here and out there.
Be happy, be safe.
Graham Coutts, 17th February 2018