I have not heard the details of what the new British Justice Secretary is proposing on prison reform, but I understand it may involve less incarceration and more rehabilitation in the community for lesser offenders.
The cries of protest have begun to be heard already at this idea. For me, if it is done sensibly, it will be a wonderful example of and opportunity for community consciousness and involvement. Apart from the fact that most prisoners re-offend soon after leaving prison, so proving that prison does not work, it is far better for people who have broken the law to atone for it by helping their immediate community.
It brings benefits to everybody, and for the offender it keeps them in a reality where their "punishment" is overseen by their local peers and not by fellow criminals in crime school, which is what prison life is becoming. The opportunity to learn and to develop a different set of values is far greater by associating with well-intentioned community members while performing their service, and, whatever the rights and wrongs of it, the inevitable sense of being judged by people who know them in their home area will be a great deterrent to re-offending.
Mr Clarke's plans will need careful handling and explanation in order to convince the public. For me, the more our world empowers communities to be in charge of their own affairs the better, even if it involves difficult situations like crime.
Most crime is carried out within a community - burglary, littering, nuisance, theft (and crimes like rape and murder too, which may need different treatment) - and so who better to deal with it than the community itself?