So, the Tories are talking about bringing back prison boats.

According to the BBC website, ‘A Conservative spokesman said: “it is something we are considering as a way of ending Labour’s early release scheme that has allowed 75,000 offenders to be released early from prison.”

And, as Bright Green blogger Gary Dunion has often pointed out to me, this obsession with early release is extraordinary. Unless the Tories believe in locking people up for life, those who are released early will still be let out at some point. During the 2005 election they released a poster “How would you feel if a bloke on early release attacked your daughter”. To which the obvious answer is “exactly the same as if anyone else attacked my daughter”.

This continues the bizarre fascination with getting vengeance on criminals, rather than cutting crime. There is little evidence that prisons effectively deter. They do, however, make great ‘crime colleges’. According to this piece in the Telegraph 39% of released prisoners re-offended in the first 3 months of 2007, and freed criminals commit the most serious crimes.

Governments have a simple choice. They can pander to tabloids, or they can be tough on crime. The Tories have clearly chosen the former.