Thursday, October 1, 2009

The Sentencing Disaster

Imagine being in prison, ticking off the calendar but being unable to get released once your punishment has ended. That has to be a nightmare.

There are in increasing number of prisoners in such a situation. Not through any fault of their own but because Labour introduced a raft of new indeterminate sentences but failed to put in place sufficient resources for the Parole Board to release them.

As I write, envelopes are being issued to groups of my peers from the Parole Board - 'you are listed for a hearing but we are bust, we'll get back to you."

On behalf of the great British public (and on your taxes) people are being held in prison once their punishment ended, solely because someone forgot to see the obvious - that the more people you throw into prison, the more resources there must be to release them at the other end. Doh!


  1. Ben, I think you very unfairly underestimate the mathematical capabilities of your captors.

    Here's a sample question from the Prison Officer Selection Test:

    120 Prisoners live on A Wing. Of these -

    30 have gone to the exercise yard
    16 have fone to the health care centre
    9 have gone to the workshop
    11 have gone to the education centre
    6 have gone to the gym
    40 have gone to the dining hall

    How many Prisoners remain on A Wing?

    Errrm...Uhhh... Ooooh...

  2. Charles: My calculator adds up to 120 prisoners accounted for which leaves 8 remaining on A Wing.

    As I understand it, at staff training college they were advised to take off their shoes and socks when they ran out of fingers...

  3. John, you are now a fully qualified screw! Congratulations!! Report for duty at once!

    You're wrong about toes, though. That's the Advanced Course for the guys being fast-tracked to governorships. It has a very high attrition rate.

  4. I assume you mean that their sentence has not ended but at a given time they should be informed if they are eligible for release? So if a Judge sentences someone to a public protection sentence of three years this does not necessarily mean that person will be released. However, the legislation surely advises of the process that must be undertaken before release - ie risk to the community of further offending. I understand a process is in place for all other prisoners, life and those serving under or over a specific period all involving a release on licence. Is the same not in place for public protection sentences?

    I am surprised that someone has not taken the Home Office to the European Court for a breach of the EU Convention on HR should prisoners be detained unlawfully.

    By the way, I thought the comment above about those working in prisons is distasteful. I have played golf at home and abroad with some people who have worked in prison and from all grades. I do not recognise the description. It may of course be humourous comment which I do not get???

  5. Anonymous, you deserve a response. Yes, it was supposed to be humorous - seriously so, not cheaply. Of course there are amiable people working in prisons. Some are idealistic, some are humane, in their way. But the bar for entry for prison officers is set very low (the question above is genuine, however close to parody you find it). This is justly a matter for criticism. I would elaborate this point and talk about pervasive stupidity and indolence, but I won't - blogs are, I am afraid, not where you go for in-depth treatments except cumulatively, over time. These are not wicked people. But they work for a system which does not work (see the stats), and they know that. It is a system which is both unkind and unintelligent. And they do something which really does take some doing: they lock up their fellow men and women. Have you ever tried doing that? And for all the talk about protecting the public, they must know that that they lock up a lot of potentially and, often, actually, very nice people who simply shouldn't be there. And there must be a voice in their head that tells them this is wrong - until habit and banality silence it.

    I haven't got time or room to elaborate this, either. But if you feel that prisons are bad places, and that enrages and dismays you, you, too, would find the expression of that through humour cathartic.

  6. Looks like 'Hold on a moment, Let me check your detail's Straw' has done it again. The man it a total re-incarnation of Stalin. We British People, have got to do some serious thinking up till May 2010. Ben, along with all of the other wronged Prisoners, need to be treated correctly and justly.