Building, staffing and maintaining prisons is a costly item on the law and order budget. What is difficult is finding a place to put one. Telling a community that they have been selected for this kind of public infrastructure investment is a very good way to lose votes.
Many of our heritage prisons originally were sited just out of town or on the edge. A century or more later they are more in the middle. So expanding existing ones is not easy. Some, on the other hand were put in isolated distant places and that is not popular for a variety of reasons.
It might be argued that of all those ancient castles there are some of lesser tourist interest that could be converted. After all, many did have their dungeons. There might be some others which could be show pieces for our caring sharing prison policy. Windsor comes to mind.
Not so long ago in the past, we had a robust policy towards dealing with criminals who needed to be separated out. Many were sent to the America's. Unluckily, they had ideas above their station and became independent, then look what happened. As for Australia, I say no more, we should never have taught them cricket.
Another outlet was the Army or Navy for many where they served their King or Queen. We could not have built the Empire without them. Sadly, as time wore on they probably played a part in us losing it. As our present government intends to hand the Army and Navy over to the EU, that option is closed, the EU has enough criminals in its organisation without needing more of them.
In calling prisons possible incubators of reformed and dutiful citizens it is tempting to make a bad or even distasteful joke on the subject of incubators can make you an incubus, but this should be passed by in order to make a more important point. Why do some people allow themselves to be caught or even risk prison?
It is possible that criminals may have a mind pattern that makes them take risk, or not see a right from a wrong or are chancers who will always take the chance. Also, there do seem to be some who have no concept of right and wrong. Not least, there are some who are by nature vicious and destructive.
What we are really looking at is a short term policy fudge, which with some figures manipulation and public relations fibs, will persuade us that something is being done, please look the other way. If this is not going to work and some serious problems are building up what are we in for?
The answer is trouble and a lot of it. The population demographics together with income and employment patterns indicate that the potential groups more likely to be active in crime and at the margins are going to increase, perhaps greater than the mean. If the policing is not up to it on the ground, the courts avoiding prison sentences and indeed prisons run down for cost savings, then we could have much more crime.
In a way it could almost take us back to the time before police, before many of our prisons were built when criminality was endemic and it was every household for themselves. It is possible. It is happening elsewhere. It happens too easily when the structure of dealing with crime disintegrates under the pressures.
But by then our present politicians will be long gone with their loot and with their payoffs.