Justice Secretary Ken Clarke launched an attack on the "Victorian bang 'em up" prison culture of the past 20 years.
He warned that simply "banging up more and more people for longer" makes some criminals worse and does not protect the public.
"In our worst prisons, it produces tougher criminals," he said "Many a man has gone into prison without a drug problem and come out drug dependent. And petty prisoners can meet up with some new hardened criminal friends." It now costs more to put someone in prison – £38,000 – than it does to send a boy to Eton.
He has a point even though he has not explained it very well. The prison system we have now does not 'work'. It also expensive.
The prisons must be made drug free, even if that entails some initial extra cost. The benefit will be less addicts on the street
The prison regime must be tougher. The first function of prison is to punish. It should not be like a holiday camp. The prisoners should also be taught basic job skills and basic reading writing and arithmetic. The first part of a sentence should be punishment and the second part rehabilitation.
One good way of cutting the prison population is to make it less of a doddle.