Saturday, October 21, 2006

Jailhouse Blues

Begbie Prison and Calton Hill, from Regent Road, Edinburgh, circa 1850

The BBC reports today that British prisons can no longer cope with the hordes of criminals we're jailing, and the Home Office has come up with a flawless solution - prison ships.

It should be clear that there is a larger problem here than a lack of capacity in British jails - we're now imprisoning our citizens at an unprecedented rate, far higher than any other nation in Europe. Using my incredible powers of prediction, I can confidently state that in five years we'll see headlines about the need to build hundreds more prison ships.

I'd recommend a programme to address the root causes of crime i.e. deprivation and a staggering lack of education, but what would I know? I only spent five years working on the criminal justice system conveyor belt, punching rivets into the daily procession of the city's unemployable underclass to HMP Saughton. If I hadn't moved on, ten years from now I'd be helping jail their children.

From the balcony of my ivory tower, it all seems so simple.

Still, that's not going to go down well with Britain's sulphurous, idiot-fodder media, so what solutions are on offer? We've already heard the government's view - build more prisons, and, er, ...that's it.

The British public give their diverse and well-reasoned views, ranging from "Hang 'Em" to "Flog 'Em".

Random samples:

"Either the farcically short jail terms are not deterring potential criminals, or we've imported criminals in their thousands from abroad... ...We need life to mean life, and have longer sentences."

"We need prisons that scare the living daylights out of those incarcerated within them, and make jail a place to fear, not a place to boast about!"

"Hang murderers and terrorists..."

"In consideration I beleave there is over 10,000 non UK nationals in our prisons lets start deporting all of them instead of allowing the British taxpayer to support them."

"Bring out the orange jump suits and have them litter picking under armed guard. It's free labour which owe's us, so should be utilised."

This might seem a bit shocking to non-Brits, but the country's unthinking horde have never met a social problem that couldn't be solved with a heavy dose of brutality, execution and slave labour.

Top marks go to Tory fantasist Anne Widdecombe, who suggests re-opening closed prisons, pressing army barracks into service and using disused holiday camps (insert your own tedious, uninformed regurgitation of "Prisons=Holiday Camps" here).

Fuck it, if we're going to do that, why not just use the sewer system? The sewers already channel society's waste out of sight and mind, why not make the metaphor complete?

The choice is yours - kids of certain parents in this country are effectively handed a mandatory prison sentence the day they're born, it's just a question of the severity of the crimes they'll commit.

If you agree with the BBC commenters, there's only one logical solution here - if your postcode is in an inner city slum, your children should be arrested the minute the umbilical cord is cut and raised in enormous prisons.

We might as well stop pretending and just criminalise reproduction for anyone on benefits.

Update! For an idea of just how insane the debate on crime and punishment has become in the UK, this comments thread on the question "Is Britain too fearful of its young?" should help.

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