Sunday, October 08, 2006

Doing judicial time

By Vivek Krishnamurthy

An amazing story from the United Kingdom this morning: Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers, the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales, has called for an increase in the use of "non-custodial punishments" as an alternative to sending small-time criminals to prisons that have become so overcrowded that it is now "difficult or impossible" to rehabilitate them.

From a U.S. perspective, Lord Phillips's intervention in a charged political debate like the one on imprisonment and its alternatives is pretty remarkable. One can only imagine the reaction in the heartland if a U.S. Supreme Court judge dared to say that this country sends too many people to prison.

What is truly remarkable, however, is that Lord Phillips weighed into the sentencing debate after spending a day on a community service project! Posing as a lawyer caught for drunk driving, the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales spent a day on a community sentencing project clearing moss from benches, painting a graffiti-covered underpass, and clearing weeds from an abandoned lot! This peer of the realm subjected himself to this treatment to prove to himself that non-custodial community sentences often work better at rehabilitating and punishing offenders than throwing them into a "dustbin" jail.

The Observer has an exclusive interview with Lord Phillips that can be read by clicking here.

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