A View From Middle England - Conservative with a slight libertarian touch - For Christian charity and traditional belief - Free Enterprise NOT Covert Corporatism

Friday, September 29, 2006

Tales from the Prison Cell

When it was common for churches around the world in the Anglican Communion to chant, or say, the Litany, people were confronted with all manner of human conditions and needs which required prayers! One such group prayed for was prisoners.

That it may please thee to preserve all that travel by land or by water,
all women labouring of child, all sick persons, and young children;
and to shew thy pity upon all prisoners and captives,

All - we beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

or by land or air or water

So I wouldn't expect those in the Home Office responsible for our prisons to have been down on their bended knees recently. The rats of this country (not the prisoners!), that is Rattus rattus, seem to have a hold over the system. Over two years ago, the BBC reported that Wealstun Jail, near Wetherby in Yorkshire, had been criticised for being "mouldy, damp and infested with rats". And now we hear that Pentonville Prison is "overrun with cockroaches" and has an "unusually high" number of assault allegations against staff, a report has said. At Inverness Prison, the Governor has spoken out. Alastair MacDonald said overcrowding meant prisoners were being sent to jails far from their families. He said "When I first arrived here the daily population was around 125 and now we are regularly having 150. On top of that, on a weekly basis we have to send prisoners down south and indeed this takes us back to the situation that prevailed in the Highlands 200 years ago. So we are going in a reverse direction at the moment sadly."

Enoch Powell once said that there weren't many votes in prison reform. He said it as a matter of sadness. If we brutalise the wrongdoer and care diddly-squat for his/her reform of character what does it say about the rest of us. I'm all in favour of punishment and punishment to fit a crime, but casual attitudes and "institutional disrespect" of inmates is uncivilised. Some rebuke us who think about prisons as "dogooders" but they never really do any good themselves. Most sound embittered and angry, without much in the way of positive thinking.

Mr MacDonald also said "Many policies are like the Easter eggs we hated getting as children - very large, very attractive but when you take off the silver paper it is a big hollow egg". How true!


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