Overcrowded prisons have encouraged the use of alternative penal policies. But building new prisons must not mean longer sentencing

When politicians make summer law and order announcements involving big round numbers, it is time to count your spoons and prepare for an autumn election. Boris Johnson is a serial offender. In July he announced 20,000 more police. Now he says he will provide 10,000 more prison places. These are bogus figures in every way. The fact that they are easily remembered numbers should have the public on their guard, especially in the light of Mr Johnson’s shameless false claims about NHS spending during the EU referendum campaign.

The 10,000 prison places are a particularly fraudulent announcement. On Sunday, Mr Johnson framed this figure as “part of a wider crackdown on crime” that aims “to keep the public safe”. The message is that his is a get-tough, crack-down, bang-’em-up government. Those extra police will be helping to send extra criminals to jails, which are being expanded to accommodate them.

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