Wednesday, September 1, 2010


That has caused my primitive spell checker to abandon ship, and reminds me of the efforts made by the Editor to keep this in reasonable order!

I was reading The Economist the other day (not a common claim on the landings...). From March 22nd, 2008. A fascinating article on a rehabilitation programme in Texas...that in itself was worth raising an eyebrow!

To avoid easy plagiarism, and to reach the central point, it highlighted the counter-intuitive point that there are some prisoners who are 'natural' businesspeople. Drug dealers, for instance, must manage supply chains, calculate profits, out-manoeuvre competition...their trade may be illegal, but it is good commercial nouse.

This Texan scheme took these illegal traders and trained them in legitimate business skills. They also offered support on release.

The re-offending rate for these guys was a miserly 5%.

Prisoners are often natural entrepreneurs, both inside and out. They are certainly not risk-averse and often show a creative flair in their particular 'market'. It would seem to make sense to harness this dynamism and guide it into a pro-social objective.

There have been two schemes in the UK which have echoes of this Texan experience. The first was the attempt by the Howard League to operate a fully commercial design and print business in a low security prison. It is now closed. The taxman couldn't make sense of it; prisoners are not supposed to be paid genuine wages and pay taxes, so the HMRC computers just couldn't cope. And the prison staff played their usual games, not unlocking and escorting the workers to the business on time. It became impossible to run this business and it had to close.

And at HMP Erlestoke, just up the road from me, a Social Enterprise Company was set up by a nucleus of motivated and creative staff. It even won a Butler Award. Now it is disintegrating, being sidelined by the new governor.

One of the most depressing realisations about prison is the sheer waste of human talent that it insists upon. Creative, dynamic people are wilfully stifled by a management outlook that is indifferent to, and unaccountable for, changing the lives of those in their charge. No wonder I'm depressed.


  1. To add to your depression, consider education at large.

    The stupefyingly obvious dumbing down of the education system, replete with pointless grade hyper-inflation; seems to be a deliberate act to stymie the truly intelligent and creative, by diluting their aspirations in a sea of cheap certificates.

    "We, the administration, don't care about your education; show us your training?"

    With 'New-Marxism' comes the need of a new-proletariat, to be seen and not heard.

  2. You forgot to mention Summit Media, who operate a business from a privte prison (Not HMP) who run a money making business by exploiting inmates to work for £15 a week, what Uk business wouldn't like this cheap labor, While the taxpayer keeps the inmates in board and lodgings??? see campaign against prison slavery for more info, Someone is doing very nicely thankyou very much.

  3. Anonymous, funny you should say that! Ben used to work for Summit Media when he was in Rye Hill. Ed.


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