It was a privilege to serve for 17 months as the Minister of State for Justice and Civil Liberties. Obviously in any government, even more a coalition government you cannot win all of your battles or achieve everything that you would wish. But as one of the ministers for prisons, I am really proud of the achievements we made to reduce reoffending and to stop small mistakes which people make in their youth from holding them back from employment later. We also hugely improved the chances for women and young people to be rehabilitated when they were in prison. But there is a bigger challenge for the criminal justice system in England and Wales, as in many other countries of the world. Far too many people are sent to prison when they really need treatment for mental illness or for their addiction to alcohol and other drugs. We should aim to cut our prison population over the years ahead by about half - from the record 90,000 who are in prison today. Of course, dangerous and repeat offenders have to be locked up. But often, prison is the worst punishment for minor offenders and those addicted or unwell. Whole families suffer, children often pay the heaviest price and we condemn society to criminality passing from one generation to the next. This madness must end.
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