Wednesday, February 2, 2011


I recently read a piece about the behaviour of people in management meetings. Invariably, when there are difficult decisions to be made, then far more time will be spent discussing the irrelevant, least important issues. For example, if the meeting has to decide whether to build a nuclear power station and the colour of the firm's stationery, the stationery will receive far more discussion.
It made me think. We are in a financial crisis. The governor has just sent out a notice asking for ideas to cut his electric bill. The Ministry is trying to push a revolutionary attitude change within prisons, the "rehabilitation revolution". So there should be more than enough substantial issues for prison managers to get stuck in to.
Except... We have a dozen tables on the ground floor, for those who prefer to eat in association rather than in cells. For many months these tables worked well. How could they not? It's just sitting and eating, how hard can it be? And so, faced with financial and philosophical management problems, the Deputy
Governor takes the time to decide to order that these tables must - and I mean MUST - all be turned 90 degrees.
And there are strong rumours of a "furniture audit". All cells must have a bed, table, chair and locker. I hope that doesn't sound like five-star living?

But as is the way - and ever was - we usually end up with odd bits of furniture above that bare minimum. People throw out a table or a locker, and it gets recycled into another cell. We take broken and worn out furniture and recycle it into tables or shelving. All by ourselves; no institutional involvement.
Now we gather that all this "extra" furniture is to be taken away. You have to be a prisoner to appreciate how angry that will make us.
And why? No reason. All this stuff will be broken up and thrown in the skip. It won't earn a single penny. Along the way, it will generate huge anger. To what end?
Who knows. But if prison governors have the time and inclination to re-arrange tables and mess about with our cell furnishings, I suspect that other things may be being neglected, the Rehabilitation Revolution, perhaps?


  1. With regard to the building of your own shelving, there may be an issue that the prison is liable for your safety, so the risk of having a DIY shelving kit falling on a head may be considered (however wisely) too great.

  2. Rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic? Surely not.

  3. It's just the same in schools. SLT (Senior Leadership Team) spending hours in meetings dicussing clip on ties and banning mobile phone use at breaktime. whats the point?