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A Land Fit for Criminals: An Insider's View of Crime, Punishment and Justice in the UK Hardcover – 1 Mar 2006
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A devastating critique (and) startling insiders account of the deception being played upon the public. -- Daily Mail
A wonderful antidote to the poisonous myths so assiduously promoted by the anti-prison lobby -- Sunday Telegraph
Fraser rigorously debunks the perceived success of community supervision orders and the myth that prison doesnt work -- Public Sector Management magazine
In a detailed analysis, Fraser claims that successive governments have talked tough on crime but acted soft. -- Sunday Times
About the Author
For twenty-six years David Fraser served in what is now the National Probation Service, working in busy inner London magistrates' courts as well as in prisons in the capital and the south-west. David also worked as a Criminal Intelligence Analyst with The National Criminal Intelligence Service for many years. In 1998 David gave written and verbal evidence to the House of Commons All Party Committee on 'Alternative Sentencing'. A Land Fit For Criminals is the result of many years of considered research and involvement with the Criminal Justice System. David Fraser is married with two grown-up children. He lives with his wife in Bristol.
Top customer reviews
He argues three main points: firstly, that there is a determined anti-prison lobby in British society and the civil service, who are determined to keep as many offenders as possible from going to jail. The result is more offenders come to realise their offences will not be punished, and they are also in the community, free to commit more crime.
Secondly, the author attacks the judiciary, with special contempt poured on high court judges. The author argues that the judges jealous belief in their own wisdom and expertise leads them to ignore the concerns of the public, whom they regard as misinformed proles whose opinions are not worthy of serious consideration. This "expert" view also extends to judges ignoring sentencing guidelines which regard as an affront to their "expert" judgement. Again, the only people who win here being the judges whose ego is massaged, and the criminals who escape jail.
Finally, the author attacks the notion that "prison does not work". He states very simply that if an offender is locked up, he cannot possibly victimise the public, and this "preventative detention" should be a central plank in the criminal justice system. Linked to this is the authors view that the social worker "hugs and excuses" mentality has to go, and that the criminal justice system should protect the public, not indulge the messiah complex of probation officers and social workers.
All in all, the book is an excellent, if at times hopelessly depressing read, particularly his vivid descriptions of how vicious crimes have often escaped with mind bogglingly light sentences. The book is a wake up call to the British public, who must act on his recommendations if the already intolerable crime rate is to be challenged. Fortunately, the author lists a number of detailed steps we can take, and leaves us on the optimistic note that the power to change the situation we are in lies within us.
There are one or two points however that Fraser lets himself down by citing things that are incorrect - the most prominent being where he states that drugs workers who visit Police stations have the ability to resolve that case by giving the prisoner treatment (instead of the prisoner being charged or cautioned), something which does not happen. He also follows the Press line on Tony Martin, even though this was disproved at two trials - while Martin was deserving of some sympathy, he was blatantly guilty of the offence he was convicted for and lied to try and cover it up.
These do not detract however from the main thrusts of his book - that more severe sentencing and much wider use of prison works in reducing crime by separating society from criminals; and that successive Governments aided by most of the Probation Service and encouraged by anti-prison groups have endangered the public by abandoning prison in favour of ineffective non-custodial remedies - which are (sadly) illustrated by daily news stories of obscenely lenient penalties.
The book demands a wider audience, and the themes within surely have to be discussed at a national level.