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Thursday, 5 July, 2001, 14:50 GMT 15:50 UK
'I should be in prison'
Prison officer walking away from prison bars
Jail: A deterrent for some
Repeat offenders muse whether David Blunkett's "tough as boots" policies would have stopped them repeating their crimes.

Ian, 17, is from London but now living in Eastbourne to try to remove himself from "bad influences".

His life of crime began when he stole milkshakes at the age of 12, and he was then repeatedly caught stealing.

"That's when I was getting cautions and cautions," he said. "Basically you're just sat in a cell, that's it - that's punishment."


I thought, oh, I can get away with this as well - that's when I started doing more

Ian, 17, repeat offender
His petty theft soon gave way to more serious crimes, and he was 13 when he first appeared in court.

"I was scared, but I just went in there and she said 'don't do it again'. So I thought, oh, I can get away with this as well - that's when I started doing more."

He estimates that he appeared in court about another 100 times before he was locked up.

Eventually he had a conviction for aggravated burglary, and there was an incident in which three innocent people were hit with crowbars.

By 16 he was sent to a young offenders' institution, but it was not long before he returned to his life of crime - to feed his newly-acquired drug habit.

"I'd get a duvet, couple of crowbars and do a shop," he said. He would use the duvet to carry stolen cigarettes and sell them to local shops.

Violence has now become a way of life for Ian.

He says he rarely gets caught, and he has little expectation that his way of life will change.


I could go out there thieving for the next two years... and then I'd only get something like three or four months

Richard Clarke, repeat offender
Richard Clarke has served more than 10 years between prisons and community service.

He says prison has done "nothing" for him.

The only way of getting an offender to stop, he says, is to make him or her want to stop.

"I have now, I've got my own little business.

"But when I was out there, it was the chances you'd take.

"I could go out there thieving for the next two years, and only be caught once.

"And then I'd only get something like three or four months."


This is my last chance. I'm not going to blow this

Dean Smith, repeat offender
Dean Smith is currently doing community service, which he says is seen by most offenders as a "soft option".

"For the offence I've committed I should be in prison.

"From the people I've met in here, people become very blasť... and they wouldn't be blasť about being in prison," he said.

However, he was hoping the community service sentence would work for him.

"This is my last chance. I'm not going to blow this," he said.

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See also:

05 Jul 01 | UK Politics
Blunkett targets violent offenders
26 Feb 01 | UK Politics
Straw's unfinished business
03 May 01 | UK Politics
Crackdown on repeat offenders
07 May 01 | UK Politics
Ministers kick-start poll campaign
08 May 01 | UK Politics
Persistent offenders targeted
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