When the Conservatives returned to power, albeit in coalition with the Liberal Democrats, I had a certain amount of despair, even though I was tired of the rudderless leadership Labour was giving the country.
My hopes were raised by the appointment of that old Tory warhouse, Kenneth Clarke, as the Lord Chancellor and Minister for Justice. At last, a minister who did not buy into the simplistic maxim of 'lock-em up and throw away the key'.
The early days were hopeful with an emphasis being placed on non-custodial, but enforceable, community sentencing. Added to this was the recognition that Indeterminate Public Protection Orders (IPPOs) were antithetical to rehabilitation and lead to the possibility of a minor infringement leading to, in effect, a life sentence. Also, Ken Clarke's long-standing unhappiness with the expansion of mandatory sentencing filled many of those who work in the Prison Service with some hope that they could get back to the job of managing a prisoner's movement through sentences, dealing with drug abuse, educating and, hopefully, providing a possibilty of rehabilitation, rather than the present nightmare of simply corralling often sick people in inadequately funded establishments.
I know the cuts in the Ministry of Justice are deep, but Mr Clarke's proposals would have saved a lot of money and allowed Prisons to finally do their job properly.
Now, I am in despair again, as the government has backed down in the face of press and public pressure (a public often fuelled by the misreporting of the media).
I actually disagreed with Mr Clarke's proposal to halve the sentences for those found guilty of rape and sexual abuse - although I fully recognise the reasoning. I simply believe that there are some crimes which are too heinous to consider rewarding an early guilty plea.
Having said that, it made sense for other crimes to be offered a halved sentence if an early guilty plea is made. It seems all that has now been lost.
On top of this, the government is introducing another mandatory sentence for possession of a knife, not allowing for any discretion by the court. It seems as if no lesson has been learnt from the heavy-handed approach of the last government.
Hopefully, the IPPO reform will still stick - believe me, there are people in prison because a magistrate thought that there might be a 'medium risk' of a person committing an offence. Think about it - not an actual offence, but the possibility. That can't be right.
So Ken, please don't give in totally, fight back. I am willing to put you back on a pedestal, it just won't be as high this time.
P.S. Where are those great prison reformers, the Lib Dems, in all this?