Kenneth Clarke today announced that the coalition government would soon be introducing new alternatives to prison, in a bid to save money yet maintain public confidence in the criminal justice system. Announcing plans that a ‘back to basics’ approach would underpin the coalition thinking, Mr Clarke gave details of the new ‘tattoo branding punishment’ that was the centrepiece of penal reform.
‘Sadly, the prison estate is full to bursting,’ he told pupils at a Norfolk primary school, ‘we have had to look to history to provide inspiration for the solution to this problem. Currently, prisoners are receiving sentences that bear little to no relation to the actual time they will serve in prison. What is currently of the utmost importance is that tabloid newspapers are allowed to run front page articles on the shameful behaviour of our paedophiles and murderers, and often link such articles to mid-size towns located in areas of outstanding natural beauty. The actual sentences imposed are swiftly forgotten. We intend to focus on the concept of public shame as a proper alternative to expensive custodial sentences. To this end, we have teamed up with the tattoo industry to propose workable, inexpensive solutions to offending behaviour, and link this with our concept of the ‘Big Society’.
‘Our proposal is that people convicted of a crime receive a tattoo on prominent parts of their body (usually their forehead) with messages that indicate the nature of their offending. For the lowest level offenders, the tattoos will be akin to the saliva-based tattoos that children used to collect. However, instead of ‘Spiderman’ or ‘The A-team’ we will require offenders to self-apply ‘Common Assault’ or ‘Drink Driving’ to their own foreheads. They will not be permitted to wash their face for a minimum of 24 hours- more than enough time for the message to get across.’
‘For offending that would otherwise merit a short prison sentence, we are very encouraged by the availability of the Henna Tattoo. Lasting for a number of months, we can properly use this to bring shame to people who defraud the benefit system, commit low level fraud, or supply cannabis to others.’
‘For the most serious offending, we have the full range of permanent tattoos available. Very few sex offenders are keen to have crude penises tattooed to their foreheads, yet that is what will happen. For drug traffickers we propose to require that they receive a tattoo with ‘Skins’ on their forehead. And for murderers we propose a particularly cruel tattoo punishment. We will ensure that they consume enough alcohol to be intoxicated enough to say to the tattoo artist ‘just do whatever you want’ and then ensure that they are tattooed with either a fridge freezer or a tractor on their backs.’
Mr Clarke’s proposals have met with general approval. However, the shadow justice secretary criticised the proposals, ‘Many citizens of this country have already taken the decision to tattoo themselves, and the proposals of this government will have the shameful effect of making these law abiding, heavily tattooed citizens appear to be criminals.’