Monday, March 26, 2012

From The Other Side of the Wall

Those of us who have to take the awesome decision to send someone to prison have a duty to make ourselves  as aware as possible of exactly what is involved. What do prisons do? How do they work? What's it like for someone going in for the first time? What's it like for the case-hardened offender going in for the dozenth time?

A small piece of the jigsaw can be found in this newspaper for prisoners. 

Give it a bit of time, keep an open mind, and see what you think.

12 comments:

  1. Overall, whether one agrees or disagrees with the columnists, it seems rather more cogent than the Daily Wail.

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  2. Anonymous John27 March 2012 11:00

    From one article. Polemical, contentious, contra, aforementioned, "au fait", "crimes of acquisition", Desiderata, intrinsic. Not words found in the vocabulary of the average prisoner.

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  3. Average prisoners don't write newspaper stories, but then again, what is an 'average' prisoner?

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  4. Thank you for this link. Some thought-provoking pieces whether you agree with the individual writer or not - which is more than can be said of Mad Mel's vitriol.

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  5. Useful insight. Thank you!

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  6. The insideinformation section of Inside Time has a wealth of information from in-house factsheets, published documentation, glossary, to a 5,000 entry searchable address finder; plus crucial information about visiting and regimes at every UK prison. There is also a fully searchable Prison Rule section which includes the latest PSIs & PSOs.
    It is all completely free access.
    Inside Time

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  7. Fascinating. As one who has previously been associated with English PEN, I was drawn to the item by Rachel Billington and what struck me is the number of charities and others who work for/ try to assist, offenders. I would love to comment further but would be shot down by the Daily Mail haters.

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  8. Thanks, BS. Having walked the Union Canal towpath past HMYOI Polmont a number of times I can now picture better what is behind that imposing wall.

    Reading the letters provides evidence that not all the inmates are illiterate put-the-boot-in scrotes. Nor can they all be innocent savants, wrongly incarcerated. Moral weakness, perhaps? An argument for different kinds of intelligence at work.

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  9. Obviously this is written by and for the more literate minority among HM's unwilling guests but they must be a substantial number.

    It is indeed more cogent than the Daily Hate Mail but that is not saying much. I know of a use for the DM but Tesco sell a better product for the purpose in several pastel colours helpfully wound onto a roll.

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  10. The issue of prison reform seems (obviously) to concern the writers and correspondents there. One correspondent was advocating deeming convictions as spent on release from prison, which seems just a little foolish.

    Yes, I understand that if you have to tick the "yes, I am a criminal" box on the job application form, you will be unlikely to be hired for anything more than menial work, unless something else about your application is exceptional. Yes, I understand that this means that your sentence is in reality "you will go to prison for four years and have a grotty job and a horrible life thereafter". But what's the alternative? I think everyone agrees that it's right and proper that convicted kiddy fiddlers don't ever get hired as schoolteachers. Should my company not also have the same protection against convicted fraudsters? Who is more likely to embezzle from my company? A random member of the public, or someone who has done time for embezzlement?

    If you make the case that convictions should become spent quickly, you are making the case that, in the interest of society as a whole and punishment not outweighing the crime, you're going to make me hire the (ex-)criminal, and run the risk of his recidivism (and if I read the stats right, offences such as theft have the worst recidivism rates).

    It may be reasonable to say that the state should wipe the slate clean and give the offender a clean shot at reform, but individual members of the public should not be asked to take that extra risk. If the state decides to hide the convictions of criminals, the state should also guarantee to make whole any victims of crimes committed by such an offender post-release.

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  11. An interesting idea there, Sam. Since so many ex-prisoners never work again and would not even if they could hide their past, insuring the employer of the few who do might not even be that expensive.

    But if you are cheated by an employee how do you know he is an ex-con if he has been allowed to hide it?

    In practice many employers ask for an employment history with no unexplained gaps - which effectively "unspends" convictions.

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  12. I suppose I was assuming that his previous "spent" conviction would become public at his sentencing after he was convicted, at which point his employer would be compensated.

    Nobody's daft enough to treat convictions as spent for the purpose of future sentencing, are they?

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