In future the drug addicts and mentally dysfunctional people that crowd our prisons will not be put away but will be offered "voluntary treatment" in hospitals. So says Fatty Clarke on the heels of announcing the closure of six prisons to meet the cost-cutting target he irresponsibly agreed after taking over at Justice.
The most shameful episode during the Thatcher regime was its cynical adoption of community care for the mentally ill as a pure cost-cutting exercise. They emptied the asylums that - as their name implied - were supposed to be refuges for those mentally unable to cope with independent living, but did not transfer the funding without which "care in the community" was a loathsome euphemism for abandonment.
So Clarke's latest wheeze is Tory "cleverness" at work, once more. They seize on "progressive" criticism of an existing programme to justify closing it down, and put nothing in its place. With a self-righteous smirk.
In terms of party politics, the smirk appears to be justified. In 1998 Blair's Health Secretary, Frank Dobson, denounced Tory "care in the community" as a totally failed initiative; but his party did nothing to change it.
Let's hear it for a society where the abandonment of the most wretched and helpless is good politics.