Cardinal Cormac says: 'more prisons are not the answer to crime'

 Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor has said he totally disagrees with the view that the only way to deal with crime is more prisons and longer sentences. Delivering the 2006 Prisoners' Education Trust Annual Lecture last night, at the Old Hall, Lincoln's Inn, he called for much greater priority to be given to the proper education and rehabilitation of prisoners and for more use to be made of alternative means of punishment. Extracts from the speech follow: "There is the capacity, in even the most dangerous criminal, for remorse and rehabilitation. God's mercy and power are always on offer and always potent. Everybody can be redeemed, which is why our penal system must provide opportunities for reform and rehabilitation at every stage for all those in its care rather than the mere ten per cent who at present complete programmes accredited with being effective in reducing re-offending. These words of mine are not founded upon a naive optimism about human nature but on the sovereignty of God's grace and that there is in every human being an obligation to realise their own nature and fulfil their purpose. This means that there is a possibility of change for everyone. Thus within a penal system, resources, human, material and educational, must be available to every prisoner to support and enable their development and rehabilitation. It should also recognise individual transformation when it does occur and the duty to receive offenders back into society when they have convincingly reformed." " True justice must produce a positive outcome for the victim, for society and for the offender. It must be possible within a penal system for an offender to make different choices from those that they have hitherto made and the system must make it possible for that transformation to take place and be assisted at every point during the offender's sentence and life thereafter. Our present penal legal system is a long way from meeting such a description. "The prison system has reached its highest ever recorded number of prisoners and is now stretched to breaking point. The terrible overcrowding only underscores the extent to which our penal system is, in practice, essentially punitive. I think we need to rectify that tendency. There should, of course, be greater concern for the victim and for the victims of crime; we need more emphasis on restorative justice, which gives victims of crime the opportunity to participate in the administration of justice and which obliges offenders to make amends to the victim and the community." The full text will be available on the Cardinal's website at: Source: Archbishops House

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