My ‘feed them to tigers’ approach to dealing with criminals doesn’t go down so well in these politically-correct times.
Everyone deserves a chance, they say. Prevention is better than punishment, we’re told. Rehabilitation is the way forward, apparently.
Tell that to anyone who knew Gregory Baker – the disabled man who was murdered in his own cottage in the Staffordshire Moorlands village of Alton in 2007.
The 61-year-old was suffocated in order that Yvonne Purchase, of Meir, could collect the £60,000 Mr Baker had left her in his will.
Purchase had two accomplices – Shane Edge, of Longton, and her son Lance Rudge, also from Meir – who was one of the subjects of a television documentary screened last night.
The 24-year-old convicted murderer was featured in ‘Lifers’, a Channel Four documentary looking at the day-to-day lives of prisoners serving life sentences at Gartree Prison in Leicestershire.
During the course of his interview for the documentary, Rudge showed no remorse for his awful crime and clearly viewed his murder trial as a little more than a ‘boring’ distraction.
He told viewers he was enjoying prison life because he has a TV, stereo and three meals a day.
Rudge said he ‘has it nice’ behind bars because he doesn’t have the ‘nightmare’ of trying to get a job.
He thinks life outside the prison would be ‘horrible’, adding: “I wouldn’t like to be out there at all now. I’d prefer to stay inside a while and wait until it calms down.”
While I am delighted that this low-life won’t be let out in the world until at least 2025, I can’t be the only one who is appalled that having committed such a heinous crime he now lives a life of comfort.
Just look at his ‘cell’. If you ignore the bars it looks to me more like a teenager’s bedroom.
Rudge is absolutely right, of course, in saying that by being inside he is shielded from the economic downturn which has many of us fearing for our jobs and wondering how we can pay our bills.
While we worry about keeping a roof over our heads, we’re all paying for Lance Rudge and his ilk to sit there in cosy rooms watching The Jeremy Kyle Show, listening to Radio One and eating meals which are no doubt nutritionally-balanced for them.
The question I would pose is: Can this really be termed ‘punishment’?
Is the denial of Lance Rudge’s liberty enough of a punishment for an horrific, pre-meditated killing?
Not in my book it isn’t.
If I had my way I’d strip him off that Stoke City shirt and baseball cap and have him wearing a fluorescent orange overall and he’d be hand-cuffed for much of the day.
His cell would contain only text books to supplement the daily education he received which would be aimed at making this toe-rag employable when he is finally released.
Those lessons would be interspersed with back-breaking labour akin to that once inflicted on chain-gangs in American prisons. (One U.S. state still allows you to volunteer for this, apparently).
Yes, I’d have Lance Rudge breaking rocks, carrying timber and sewing mail bags for the duration of his stay at Her Majesty’s Pleasure.
Meanwhile I’d have someone telling him every day that what he did was evil and despicable until he got it through his thick skull that other people matter and that he is responsible for his actions.
If this all seems incredibly draconian then I come back to the central point that prison is supposed to be a deterrent.
However, here we have a bloke who murdered someone actually preferring to stay inside where he has all the comforts of home but doesn’t have to earn a living like the rest of us.
We are told our prisons are bursting at the seams. I would suggest this has much to do with the fact that imprisonment itself isn’t much of a deterrent to people with little or no moral compass like Lance Rudge.
Clearly there is a problem with the prison system and, as a senior prison officer told me, it is failing because so many prisoners go on to re-offend upon their release.
According to the latest Ministry of Justice figures, a record number of offenders sentenced for serious crimes last year had committed previous offences. Ninety per cent of those sentenced in England and Wales had offended before – and almost a third had committed or were linked to 15 or more crimes. The figures showed that re-offending rates were highest among serious offenders who had been jailed.
Ministry of Justice officials say the figures show a “clear trend” of a rising re-offending rate.
I read that as a clear acknowledgment that being in prison doesn’t put people off coming out into society and committing more crime.
Of course rehabilitation is important. Of course reaching those who may be at risk of falling into a life of crime is important.
But surely the final resort is important too – and not simply for keeping the public safe.
Until prisons are more of a deterrent then I would suggest that rapists, paedophiles, armed robbers and murderers like Lance Rudge are simply laughing at us for funding their cosy existences.
Read my Personally Speaking columns every Tuesday in The Sentinel