Please note not all views expressed in the film and on the blog necessarily reflect the views of coalition members.
The self-fulfilling prophesy that's doubled our prison population,
demonised our young and costs us billions...
Welcome to the Fear Factory

Friday, 12 March 2010

The Fear Factory

The “Fear Factory” is a new film about the criminal justice system. Watch the trailer or find out more here.

On releasing “The Fear Factory” at a closed screening in Central London last week, the Bulger case was history – the hair-trigger cause of the youth justice crisis which the film shows unfolding over the past two decades. This weeks events have shown it’s more real, more relevant than ever – and more worryingly, that we’ve learnt little from the past.

Despite knowing full well that a punitive climate, stoked by a distorted fear of crime has lead to a doubling of our prison population and rates of re-offending as high as 90%, our educated friends in Westminster have done nothing to change this. So why not? Could it be because fear actually helps them… ?

In the 1990’s law and order burst onto the political agenda as way to grab votes and Michael Howard, home secretary when Bulger’s killers were sentenced, led the way – bending to public and tabloid pressure and extending the killers sentences. A canny Blair, realised that crime, and especially youth crime was a big winner with the red tops and if he was going to win the election he needed them on-side.

The Sun’s then Executive Editor told us in a cringe-worthy moment for anyone who bought Blair’s hype at the time:

He ran, “tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime” past me and asked “do you think the press will go for this one?

They did; In a big way, and NuLabour™, took Howard’s precedent to the max. For example our exec editor at the Sun wrote a leader saying yobs should be frogmarched to cashpoint machines and within a week it was Labour policy. Some 4,300 new criminal offences have been introduced in the last decade and today we’re paying the price. It costs up to £250,000 to keep a young offender in custody and as few as 10% stay on the straight and narrow when they get out.

Meanwhile, some states in the US are investing heavily in programmes that have now been proven successful at re-habilitating young offenders and scrapped plans to build new prisons. This should make us pause for thought but the re-emergence of Bulger and resultant coverage ahead of a general election doesn’t bode well – both Tories and Labour have pledged to build more prisons and the Ministry of Justice has just signed off on a private sector contract to build and run the first Titan-style prison for young offenders.

Alongside Ministers and MPs in the film we also interviewed victims, young offenders and killers. None of them pulled any punches (probably why broadcasters won’t touch anything but a hacked down version). Off the back of the film, 47 national organisation joined a coalition asking for an end to this ‘arms race on political tough talk’; The Liberal Democrats have pledged not to use fear as an electioneering tool – in stark contrast to the Conservatives and Labour. Maria Eagle MP (Ministry of Justice) refused to make the same pledge at our screening, with Labour’s new advert on crime out – it’s not hard to see why. At least she had the courage to come to the screening, unlike Conservative Shadow Justice Secretary, Dominic Grieve MP, who was conveniently called away at the last minute on a three line whip and unable to defend himself on what many will see as a direct endorsement of Chris Grayling’s “misleading” statements on crime figures.

by Joanna Natasegara and Richard Symons
March 12, 2010 at 8:00 am
Liberal Conspiracy

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