Delaying the release of terrorists just delays the problem

Following the stabbing attack in Streatham earlier this month, the government is now fast-tracking the Terrorist Offenders Bill – emergency legislation that will end the automatic early release of terrorist offenders. With the Bill set to be debated in the House of Lords next Monday (24 February), Green Peer Jenny Jones argues that the proposed legislation will be ineffective and could have detrimental consequences.

Jenny Jones speaking
Jenny Jones speaking

Image: Stephan Röhl / Flickr / cc by-sa 2.0

Jenny Jones

The government is rushing through retrospective legislation to stop the automatic release of people convicted of terrorism charges. It follows the horrible knife attack on the streets of Streatham a couple of weeks ago. This is one of those ‘something must be done, this is something, let's do it’ laws that governments introduce when something bad has happened after ten years of their being in power and enforcing austerity cuts onto the prison service. 

It’s a shield from which the government can say ‘look, we are being tough on terrorism’ while failing to take any meaningful action to deal with the real problems.

All this Bill achieves is to give us a few brief years to reverse the cuts to the prison service and fund a first-rate de-radicalisation program. Simply keeping people in prison for a bit longer is no use if those people will still come out just as dangerous, just as angry and just as hateful. Or worse, the idea that these people are actually radicalising others within prison, and becoming more dangerous themselves.  

The emergency legislation can also be seen as a deliberate attempt to provoke the lawyers and the judges, as part of Number 10’s ongoing battle against Human Rights and the Rule of Law.

I can only imagine Dominic Cummings sat in his lair, dreaming up these Machiavellian plots to lure us into a narrative that ‘the judges are on the side of the terrorists’.

But it's Tory governments who have created problems, by the severe cuts to prison budgets, combined with privatisation, which have damaged the quality of supervision. Some of our prisons have become squalid dumps in which radicalisation can fester. If the easy access to drugs in prisons is any parallel, then extremism will spread like wildfire and we will have a very serious epidemic brewing.

The government needs to take back control of our prisons and put in the resources to solve these complex problems – talking tough is not the same as being effective.