21 OCTOBER 1972, Page 26

Treating crime

Sir: Mr Douglas Curtis tells us that over 90 per cent of prisoners still come from the most deprived section of the working class. Since indictable crimes have more than quadrupled since the hungry 'thirties (and crimes of violence arp more than ten times as much over the same period), does this mean that this deprived section has increased pro rata? And since he also tells us that the government expects a 50 per cent increase in the prison population by 1980 does this mean that it also expects a parallel increase in the underprivileged?

In 1938, there were 283,220 indictable offences (including 2,721 crimes of violence) while last year, indictable offences were about four times as many with crimes of violence about ten times as many. Statistically at least, the pre-war penal code which included hard labour, the birch, the cat and the rope was more effective in crime prevention than the more ' humane ' code of today. Mr Curtis may of course, care to argue that had we not introduced a more ' humane ' penal code, the flgureS would be even higher but he would be a brave man to do so without shred of evidence. Some penal and sociological experts tell us that crime and violence are increasing in other countries as well. That may be simply because other countries have changed their penal codes in the same ways as we have.

Another point made is that the civilisation of a nation should be Judged by its way of dealing with law-breakers; would not as good a criterion be how few law-breakers it had to deal with?

The soft, by comparison with pre-war days, treatment of offenders may well lead to more violence as people give up relying on the government to fulfil its prime duty to protect the law. abiding citizen from theft and violence and take to carrying their own weapons, like a young cousin of mine who carries a knife in her handbag since the night she was sexually attacked while walking home.

Finally, those prisoners who object to being in prison can always keep the law — with the Welfare State, they do not have to starve.

C. W. Bond 88 Lower Bristol Road, Westonsuper-Mare, Somerset.