Justice Secretary Ken Clarke has blamed the popular press for putting thousands of criminals in jail who do not need to be there.
Juliet Lyon, director of the Prison Reform Trust, says there is a "toxic mix" - a combination of "declamatory statements" from politicians and the press "wanting to push the fear of crime button".
She believes it is "fairly clear" that the public think the press is an influence on prison sentencing
Peter Hitchens of the Daily Mail told Today presenter John Humphrys that all political statistics need to be "mistrusted". He believes there is "no question" that crime and disorder are at "much higher levels" in the UK than they were half a century ago.
Politicians "object to what they see as the public's obsession with wanting to see criminals punished," he said.
"You have to try very hard to get into prison in this country."
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