Seeing the headline on the BBC News website, I had to take a peak to see what Mr Grayling, our Justice Secretary, had to say when interviewed for The Mail Online: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2272572/Criminals-face-new-spartan-prisons-Justice-Secretary-s-tough-regime-uniforms-Sky-TV-pocket-money.html#ixzz2JqjvQurU
With headline grabbing gusto, Mr G says “Criminals face new ‘spartan prisons’……plans tough regime with uniforms, no Sky TV and less pocket money”. Oh. Is that all? What about the new mentoring scheme that was being discussed a couple of weeks ago in order to stop reoffending, where’s that policy gone? Instead, The Daily Mail is happy to air it’s old chestnuts again describing Britain’s prisons as “holiday camp jails” and banging on about banning Sky TV. Mr Grayling, unlike the vast majority of us, believes that “prisoners do not deserve the kind of lifestyle and “frills” that are beyond the reach of families on low wages”. Sorry, just refresh my memory, you did say that Mr Grayling was Justice Secretary – is this England’s Justice Secretary or some other planet?
Prisoners are in prison, and just to enlighten anyone who does not realise it, in prison you have your freedom removed (yes, you deserve it, but that’s not what’s being discussed here). I have been to a holiday camp and I have a husband who has been to prison. When discussing both outings, we could not find a single thing that was the same, except the poor quality food. I tend to find holiday camps allow you to come and go as you please, to allow you to bring whatever you want in with you and to leave with whatever you want. You can stay in and use the amenities, or go out. You’re only there for a brief time. If you’ve been to a holiday camp that is like a prison, it is highly likely to be shut down as no one else would go on holiday there.
We do allow our prisoners to have television whilst inside – given that a lot of offenders can spend the majority of their time in their shared cells with nothing else to do, how about, rather than banning TV, we ensure prisoners are otherwise occupied. How about, and this is a radical thought, instead of locking them up most of the day, we make them embark upon rehabilitating educational schemes, or maybe as part of their sentence, we make them train for work so that when they leave, rather than complain that they can’t keep up with their much loved Sky TV programmes, they can go and get jobs.
The Daily Mail describes “….. the biggest prison regime shake up for 60 years” as stopping Sky TV, enforcing the wearing of drab grey prison overalls, the use of “pocket money” to buy toiletries and sweets to be curbed and not allowing gay prisoners to share cells. Oh please, is that all you can come up with. Do you really think your average criminal is going to be quaking in his/her boots at the thought of having to do time wearing an overall? And how exactly is that going to dissuade someone who has done time from reoffending? Isn’t it better to rehabilitate? To concentrate on why they leave and reoffend? Prisons don’t work, but they don’t not work because of the outfit you wear or the tv programme you watch. These people, and, I might say, the long term unemployed, need jobs. They need to be out grafting, providing for their families. They need a better training scheme that currently exists inside. Don’t keep piffling away at the edges Mr Grayling, get in there and do something to make a difference – making Daily Mail readers red faced and angry at the thought of a prisoner watching Sky TV whilst floating on a lilo in the prison spa is not going to stop an ex-prisoner from committing another crime because they need money.