The Justice Secretary has said that it is "time to get back to more intelligent sentencing".
Speaking on the Today programme in advance of a major speech in which he will outline his plans for reform of the "failed" penal system, Kenneth Clarke said that it needed "a much better record of rehabilitating" offenders.
"We need intelligent sentencing based on punishment... protecting the public and... making people not reoffend," he explained.
But he said that his plans to lock up fewer people and increase the number of shorter sentences would not put him "at direct odds with my leader".
Mr Clarke accused his predecessors David Blunkett and John Reid of governing with "a cheque book in one hand and the Daily Mail in the other".
And he pledged to "cut back on the absurd expansionism" in a justice system which he said is not very good at stopping reoffending, adding: "I've got a vast department with double the number of prisoners than before."
He also acknowledged that reforming the system "requires a little more than tough rhetoric".
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