“When cautions are handed down repeatedly, fines aren’t paid, or community sentences aren’t rigorous, a damaging message is sent to offenders,” British member of parliament Nick Herbert told the annual Jerry Lee Crime Prevention Symposium in Washington, D.C., yesterday. The “failure to set clear rules and boundaries from the start and to deal with transgression swiftly and surely to prevent escalation simply encourages the flow through the criminal justice system,” he said. Herbert, minister of state for policing and criminal justice, said Britain is applying restorative justice principles to deal more effectively with low level offenders who would otherwise get a simple administrative disposal, “requiring them to face the consequences of their actions and make reparation to their victims and the community.”
Britain is requiring that community sentences have a strong punitive element and those given unpaid work will in future be required to do a full five-day week of productive work and job seeking. “Being smart on crime does not mean being soft headed,” Herbert said. “Crime should never be excused and offenders should not be treated as victims. Getting those who transgress back onto the straight and narrow should be a rigorous task where we demand results, not a misplaced act of compassion.” The symposium, which concludes today, is sponsored by the University of Maryland, University of Pennsylvania, George Mason University, and the University of Cambridge.