Sometimes Socialists feel for our political rivals . Yes , we really do . We know they know that their political programme and policies are worthless yet they are unable to refute them .
One such politician is Mark Oaten one-time Liberal Democrats' home affairs spokesman .
The Winchester MP desperately wanted to say that all prisons should be demolished and replaced with education and training centres, mental health facilities and drug rehabilitation units. But his Lib Dem colleagues would never allow him to air this radical view in public.
"It was clear to me that prison wasn't working," says Mr Oaten. "But I would have been crucified as a front line politician for saying this in public and the party would have tumbled in the opinion polls."
Since he is no longer seeking re-election he is now able to disclose his real views on political and social matters .
"Prison is not fit for purpose and it's beyond reform. We need to abolish it and replace it with more workable alternatives," he tells BBC Radio 4
The Winchester MP identifies mental health problems, drug addiction and illiteracy as three of the main reasons for criminal behaviour. According to Mr Oaten 72% of prisoners have mental health problems. These people, he argues, should be held in secure therapeutic facilities where they would undergo treatment. Mr Oaten believes offenders detained in mental health facilities should only be released when they are no longer considered a threat to society.
Mr Oaten envisages the drug treatment facilities he proposes attracting plenty of offenders, claiming that currently around 50% of all prisoners have a drug problem.
For those identified as committing crime because of their lack of employability, Mr Oaten would like the government to establish a network of secure education and training centres.
He says: "Thirty seven per cent of prisoners are functionally illiterate. They should be in classrooms learning to read and write or in training and getting skills." Those sentenced to education and training would be released upon successful completion of their course.
This Liberal Democrat may believe he is on to something but we would suggest that he has one big huge glaring omission in his analysis - Capitalism and its alienating deprivation of ownership and control of everyday life that contributes to the crime situation and the anti-social behaviour of many of our fellow workers . He is as it turns out just another reformer seeking palliatives and cures for problems that are inherent within the capitalist system and which cannot be removed by good intentions . A jail will be a jail , prison walls or not , and as the rest of the article indicates , there is more to solving crime than Mark Oaten's penal reforms .
"Law is nothing but a class instrument – a weapon of the capitalist State for its own preservation. It is necessary to the capitalist State because the ruling class in capitalism have laid thieves’ hands upon the means of life... However much he may be made to fear the Law, the proletarian will no longer respect it. He will come to regard it in its true light, as the enemy, not the friend, of the working class; as the necessary adjunct of class rule, by means of which alone the producers of all wealth can be robbed and murdered and debauched, with some sort of one-sided orderliness, by a class of idle, drunken parasites, steeped to the neck in moral turpitude, sunk to the eye-brows in abomination which even the hardened Law dares find no name for. That superstitious awe which, quite apart from the fear of policeman and prison surrounds the Majesty of the Law, will dissipate, and no longer will the worker "blush for shame" at being caught in the act of law-breaking. (Socialist Standard, July 1911)
And as Eugene Debs once remarked :-
While there is a lower class, I am in it, while there is a criminal element, I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free.
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