08 October 2006

Lord Ramsbottom's article on Prisons

Lord Ramsbottom has written a good article for The Guardian. Click Here to read it. you can also read my own response to the article in the comments section at the end of the article.



Anonymous Nigel said...

Both a very good article by Lord Ramsbottom and a very good and well-informed reply from you, Susan. My own contribution, under the pseudonym 'Portmuthian', appears in the same place.

I read Lord Ramsbottom's autobiography 'Prisongate' in outline about a year ago. Towards the really violent offenders he was no 'soft touch' to be sure, but his outlook was tempered by his time as an Infantry officer in the Rifle Brigade. That is to say, that as a holder of the Queen's commission, your first duty is to your men, whose needs are your law - way above yourself. That we have almost no MPs with a service background nowadays has contributed, I'm inclined to think, to the mess that we have now, with no one willing to take the blame for what's going wrong, and no one to give a lead ("Damn the Tabloids - full speed ahead!") and get it right.

An ex-MP Martin Bell (himself ex National Service) said as much to me at a meeting I attended, just a week ago.

5:58 pm  
Blogger janetngoodwin said...

Good stuff Sue,I know the mentally ill being in jail is something you feel justifiably strongly about.
Who knows, maybe the current crisis will force them to rethink

3:29 pm  
Blogger Alan said...

Dear Susan,

Thank you for poiting out this interesting article. I am particularly grateful because, living in the Czech Republic, it's hard to stay connected. I haven't learned much Czech, but I did find out that the name of my car (i.e. a Skoda, pronounced more like Shkoda in Czech) actually means "shame" in Czech. All this just to say that it is a shame (or should I say skoda) that things always have to come to the breaking point before measures are taken. But maybe this is a positive development. In any case, it is a very interesting and refreshing article.

It certainly seems as though most of the emphasis of the Blair government has been placed on increasingly repressive measures and this, I suppose, in response to public opinion, although I have difficulty understanding this in the light of the numerous cases of miscarriages of justice which have come to the surface.

Anyway, please keep hope, Susan, the tide is changing.

8:47 am  
Blogger Alan said...

Dear Susan,

I'm not sure whether you will want to accept this post. I tried to post this on the guardian, but I got an error message saying that comments were not allowed on this article. (I guess I must be particularly dumb, because everyone else seems to have succeeded!) So I thought I would try to post it here before I lose the text.

I agree with those who think prison should be a last resort. Part of the problem with politicians or others who call for increasing severity is that they do not imagine that they might find themselves at the wrong end of the stick. If we ourselves were in the position of say Sally Clark or Susan May who found themselves wrongfully labeled murderers and imprisoned, we would probably think twice before saying that criminals should be treated harshly. When I heard of Sally Clark being released I thought, great! But, I didn't realize the extent to which she seems to have been traumatized (of course, I should have).

As regards France, I don't know the rates, but the prison conditions have been described as being deplorable and there are many cases of people being locked up for long periods of time simply on "detention provisoire", i.e. before being brought to trial (see the Outreau case, for example). And Nicolas Sarkozy is likely to increase the prison numbers if he is elected next year.

My commiserations to Peter Blanksby and his daughter (mentioned in the Guardian comments). It is a heart rending story.

5:30 pm  
Blogger Susan said...

I really do feel that Restorative Justice could be a way forward? I read up on this quite extensively when I was in prison studying for a Criminology section of my degree work and it is certainly not a soft option as some believe. When offenders, especially persistant criminals, are made to come face to face with their victims it can have a profound effect. Obviously it needs participation from both parties and that needs courage from the victim, but by showing how they have been affected by the crime and how their lives have changed due to the trauma of the crime, it encourages the offender to see things from a different perspective. The 'normal' court procedure actually forms a barrier - lawyers speak for them and then they can 'hide' from the consequences in prison? By facing the issue head on and face to face, can highlight the severity of the damage done to all? The offender can be made to admit to the reasons why he or she committed the crime and see the errors of their ways and the victim can state clearly how their lives were affected.

6:07 pm  
Anonymous mark g said...

Many of my peers (20-30 age group) believe prison should be dished out more liberallyl than it currently is. "Lock him up" is a common cry when they read about crime in the newspaper. I even know people who still advocate chopping the hands off thieves etc. and deporting any immigrant that breaks the law no matter how long they or their family have been settled here.

So those type of people probably WANT the government to keep throwing as many criminals as possible in jail and keep them in for as long as possible.

So the government would lose popularity with that particular cross-section of the electorate if they were to reduce custodial sentencing.... UNLESS they could educate the public about alternative punishments and their effectiveness.

Anyway, just thinking out loud.

10:29 am  

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