The Tories are speeding through plans to expand the prison population and strengthen state powers of control and surveillance, supposedly to tackle Islamist-inspired terrorism.
They cite the murder of Saskia Jones and Jack Merritt by recently released terrorism convict Usman Khan in London Bridge last November as justification.
Those convicted will face more time in jail, with a minimum term of 14 years and the abolition of automatic early release. There will be more funding for counter-terrorism police and probation officers. Lie detector tests will be introduced into the probation system.
Civil liberties have been curbed over and over for more than forty years, the prison population has soared for thirty, and for twenty we have had waves of authoritarian anti-terrorism legislation.
The US has five times more people in prison than England per head of population (655 vs 140 per 100,000). Simultaneously it has a homicide rate ten times higher than England’s and far more random acts of mass killing than any other country.
“More jail” policies do not make us safe. Particularly when they are pursued in conjunction with relentless destruction of the social fabric and promotion of ever-greater insecurity and inequality, and with nationalist and racist policies and politics.
Such measures the reservoir of social despair feeding the jihadists (and the racist anti-Muslim far right, whose terrorism is also a growing threat.
With more funding and more enlightened policy, the battered probation system could become more like a public service serving social need and drawing people away from death-loving militarist movements. Making it an appendage of counter-terrorism policing is destructive. Having more young Muslims inside prisons for longer will more likely aid than cut off rather than aid the spread of terrorist Islamism is surreal.
The Tories’ approach is not based on evidence, but on a mix of right-wing ideology and desire to consolidate their electoral support base. No wonder they are rushing it through (Home Secretary Priti Patel promises legislation by mid-March, billing this as “within weeks”).
To counter and undermine the influence of Islamism, we need to rebuild sources of hope that we change society for the better.
That starts with a fight against the Tories and their exploitation of Islamism’s brutality to pursue their own brutal agenda.