Get Out Of Jail Free (If You Are A Girl)

Claire Perry, Conservative MP for Devizes, thinks that boys who commit crimes should go to prison, but not girls.

You would think that such a striking and illiberal proposal would be backed up by some powerful facts or hitherto-unseen observations, right? But no. Instead, she gives us this:

Generally speaking, girls are much better behaved than boys. That isn’t some ludicrous Victorian stereotype, but a fact drawn out by crime statistics. Of 1,744 young people in custody, just 95 are girls. Just 22 per cent of offences committed by children are committed by girls. Moreover, of the few girls that do end up in court, the majority have committed low level, non-violent offences such as shop theft or criminal damage.

Okay, Claire Perry. I’m waiting to see how you twist this observation into the idea that those girls who do commit violent or high-level offences should receive different punishments their male counterparts. Oh wait, that part never comes.

Using inappropriate and unnecessary criminal justice interventions for girls’ low level behaviour is like using a sledgehammer to crack a nut.

It’s fine for boys though. Go to town with that sledgehammer.

The Howard League for Penal Reform has conducted research on children in the penal system and legally represented children in custody.  The charity has been supporting the APPG inquiry and found that many of the girls who do end up in court had led chaotic lives, experienced poor parenting, neglect or abuse.  They have grown up in communities blighted by poverty and deprivation.  However, magistrates in the youth court lack the powers to invoke care proceedings, even when it is obvious that the young girl before them is vulnerable and in need.

True. But again, how is this terrible and depressing fact any different in the case of boys?

Failing to address a girl’s underlying welfare issues makes it more likely she will end up in court again.  A criminal conviction can exacerbate problems instead of solving them.  It can make it harder to find employment or a college place in the future.  Rather than criminalising girls for minor misdemeanours we should be ensuring that they and their families have the support they need in order to turn their lives around and make a positive contribution to their communities. We need to intervene early and give girls appropriate support in order to reduce further the small number of girls who end up in the penal system.

Change the word “girl” to “person” in this paragraph and you would have my agreement, Claire.

And she goes out on a strong note:

Prison for girls is not the answer and we should shut down all three prison units for girls immediately.

Wow, you really convinced me with the power and fact-based nature of your argument.

I’m actually not going to discuss the merits and drawbacks of Britain’s existing penal system in this blog post, though it certainly deserves discussion in future. For now I’m just going to marvel at the ridiculous notion of proposing different punishment methods for individuals, based not on the nature of their crime, or their treatment needs, or the danger that they pose to society, but based exclusively on their sex.

How disappointing to hear such discriminatory tosh emanating from the mouth of a Conservative MP.