UK & World News
Cameron's 'Rehab Revolution' To Cut Crime
David Cameron has insisted prison must be made to work and unveiled plans for tougher sentences balanced by a drive to slash re-offending.
The Prime Minister, attempting to wrestle back the political initiative after a chaotic week for the Government, outlined plans for a "rehabilitation revolution".
This will mean all but the most high-risk prisoners will be given support by the end of 2015 to help them turn their lives around - instead of those only jailed for more than a year.
In a major expansion, private firms, charities and voluntary groups will be paid by results for helping offenders to escape a life of crime.
Campaigners immediately warned that the new "tough but intelligent" approach risked being undermined by overcrowded prisons and budget cuts.
Mr Cameron, in his first major speech on law and order since taking office, admitted there was "no blank cheque" and it was a case of having "to do more for less".
But he insisted: "It's not a case of 'prison works' or 'prison doesn't work' - we need to make prison work.
"And once people are on the outside, let's stick with them, let's give them proper support, because it's not outer space we are releasing these people into, it's our streets, our towns, among our families and our children."
Mr Cameron insisted he was not going "soft or liberal" and stressed that serious crimes had to be met with long prison sentences.
"Retribution is not a dirty word," he said. "It is important to society that revulsion against crime is properly recognised."
However, he argued: "Just being tough isn't a strategy in itself" because many prisoners needed help to become productive members of society.
"It's common sense," he said. "We'll never create a safer society unless we give people, especially young people, opportunities and chances away from crime.
"Prevention is the cheapest and most effective way to deal with crime - everything else is simply picking up the pieces of failure that has gone before."
The Prime Minister also denied ever saying the phrase "hug a hoodie" despite it becoming a defining motif of his leadership.
He called for a shift from a "sterile" debate that focuses on "lock 'em up or let 'em out" or "blame the criminal or blame society".
His call for a "tough but intelligent" law and order policy is already being compared to Tony Blair's pledge to be "tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime".
The speech comes after Home Secretary Theresa May announced a crackdown on gun-runners with a new criminal offence of possessing firearms with intent to supply.
And it follows weeks of turmoil for the Tories sparked by Chief Whip Andrew Mitchell's row with a police officer in Downing Street last month.
Harry Fletcher, from the probation union Napo, claimed: "The coalition's policy of cuts, combined with payment by results, is undermining effective practice.
"Payment by results failed in Welfare to Work and will fail with justice. It will prove impossible to measure or monitor cause and effect in both prisons and the community."
Making community orders more punitive instead of focusing on rehabilitation would also lead to move re-offending, he argued.
Labour accused the Prime Minister of "empty rhetoric" designed to keep Tory MPs onside.
Shadow justice secretary Sadiq Khan said: "This is nothing more than a smokescreen to try and cover up Andrew Mitchell losing his job on Friday and 29 wasted months of dithering on law and order.
"This out-of-touch Government must think the public are stupid - it's these kind of actions that makes the public so cynical about politicians.
"Rehashed announcements, rushed legislation and ill-thought out and evidence-free policies risk undermining public confidence in our criminal justice system."