Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Whether to Riot - part 2

Even if, as some claim, past riots have led to improvements for prison conditions, the question still remains whether riots now (or in the future) could achieve positive change.

I say no. Leaving aside the morality of using violence in an attempt to gain benefits (I take a Gandhian view of these things); I doubt the utility of violence. We are no longer in 1990. The PS has trained its staff, honed its procedures and altered the very architecture of prisons all with the aim of containing and suppressing riots quickly.

No longer will Bristol prison have to deal with a riot equipped only with one squad of 12 riot-staff. This was the case in 1990. No longer do staff withdraw and wait for us to run out of things to smash before they re-enter. As demonstrated in Lincoln in 2003, the strategy is now to re-enter the area in force as fast as possible. Luckily, no one listened when the then Home Secretary asked that the prisoners be machine-gunned.

No longer can rioting prisoners easily move between wings, or access crucial administrative areas of the prison. New barriers of gates and bars section the internal prison structures precisely to confine riots to small areas.

For all of these reasons, I have repeatedly argued that the riots of 1990 are unlikely to be repeated. Not because prisoners are now happy, contented people but because the structures that we face when we lift our fists in anger and frustration are so much stronger and more competent.


  1. Was it a facetious comment about the home secretary suggesting machine gunning prisoners or is it true? Any reference? Genuine question...

  2. The Director General of the Prison Service revealed that gem to the BBC on 16 October 2006...

  3. Blunkett 'gave machine-gun order'


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