20 January 2020

Prisons

Yesterday, as high pressure settled over the British Isles, I walked in bright sunshine over flat land east of Doncaster. Having parked Clint in the village of Hatfield Woodhouse, I set off south along a frosty lane that eventually passes the sprawling site of a former World War II air base - RAF Lindholme.

To the south of this there is now a prison - HMP Lindholme which accommodates over a thousand male inmates serving sentences of four years or more. There must be some very bad guys in there.

Now I don't think about prisons very often. After all I have never even  been in one. To me they are rather mysterious institutions that I occasionally read about and sometimes they figure in hard-hitting TV documentaries. I don't move in the kind of circles where imprisonment figures though I guess that some blog visitors may have been locked up in the past.

In Britain, there are currently 83,618 people in our prisons. Men are 22 times more likely to be imprisoned than women. Currently, it costs around £40,000 a year (US $52,000) to incarcerate one prisoner and this does not include prison building costs nor educational and recreational activities. It seems bizarre to me that that money is not instead directed to improving people's life chances to effectively keep them out of prison.

In the USA, the size of the prison population is enormous. Currently 2.3 million people are locked up in 1,719 state prisons, 109 federal prisons, 1,772 juvenile correctional facilities, 3,163 local jails, and 80 Indian Country jails as well as in military prisons, immigration detention facilities, civil commitment centres and state psychiatric hospitals. It is an enormous industry costing mind-boggling sums of money. Estimates vary but some reputable studies suggest that the annual cost is around $182 billion.

I wonder what the thousand inmates in HMP Lindholme were doing as I strolled by the high fence that surrounds them. Perhaps they were playing chess or table tennis. Maybe they were reading The Complete Works of Charles Dickens or simply gossiping about safe cracking and other jolly subjects like murder and fraud. Some of them may have been blogging if indeed prisoners are allowed to blog....
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DOING PORRIDGE
Life at HMP Lindholme
Sunday January 19th
Porridge for breakfast again. I finally finished "Hard Times" and I am now looking forward to "David Copperfield" which we will be discussing at the F Wing book club next month. Looking through the barred window of my cell this morning I noticed that the weather outside was nice and sunny. I saw a fellow in a blue fleece with khaki walking trousers marching by the perimeter fence. He waved at me and I waved back. I wondered where he was going and what it is like to be free. I have been in here so long that I have almost forgotten. How I wish I had not bludgeoned that old shopkeeper to death. Forgive me Lord.

41 comments:

  1. I do know of a man who served a very long prison sentence. He came out with an arm full of degrees etc but it made no difference to his chances of finding work. I agree with you, it seems that it's all wrong somehow.
    This man I know made a bad mistake but is actually a really nice person and no threat to the community.
    Drink and drugs play a large part in most crimes as it did in the case of my friend and this is what has to be rectified.
    Briony
    x

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    1. Circumstances can often conspire against people and before you know it you're swirling down the plug hole. For many crimes - though not all - there has to be another way. It's such a waste of money.

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    2. Absolutely spot on Crafty Cat. Most of the people I teach are in prison for drug related crimes. That's not to say they didn't decide to take them, but WHY they need them is not really understood by many more fortunate people.

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  2. Wasn't me guv. I was fitted up. A big boy did it and ran away!

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    1. If you had been in there I think you would have been very popular with the other lags JayCee.

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  3. It's a wonder you're not incarcerated yourself for taking that photograph. It must have looked like you were planning to help someone escape. Actually, my brother spent quite a lot of time in there. He designed the air conditioning system.

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    1. It must have been a very faulty system if they locked him up for designing it or did he overcharge?

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  4. Read the 3 books by Jeffrey Archer about his time in prison if you want to find out more.

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    1. I am anti-Jeffrey Archer Margaret. He should never been allowed to get his "Prison Diaries" published whilst still in prison. When his books appear at my Oxfam shop I never put them out on the shelves. Other volunteers can do that but I won't.

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    2. Jeffrey Archer is a writer, YP. What else would he do but write about his experience in prison? Thanks, Margaret, for bringing those diaries to my attention. I shall forthwith forage for them in my nearest Oxfam shop. Under the counter.

      I am fascinated by imprisonment. Being incarcerated an experience I hope I'll never have to encounter. No space, no freedom, no nothing. And shit food. Even trying to hang yourself appears to be an obstacle course.

      U

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  5. Like warfare, we humans should have figured out a better alternative to prisons by now. For many, at least. The US prison system is a big money-maker. And it makes its money on the backs of a hugely disproportionate prison population. It's a national disgrace.

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    1. In percentage terms, no other country in the world puts as many of its citizens away as The USA. However, I hope that one day Donald Trump will add to that number.

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    2. Your lips to the gods' ears.

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  6. For those of us who have all sorts of different freedoms: movement and thought to name but two the constraints on many by society and circumstance must mean that prison is no worse. There will always be those who must be locked away to protect society but finding a way to prevent the rest is such a mammoth task socially and financially that I suspect that we will live with the situation we have (or worse) for as long as you and I are on this mortal coil and probably generations afterwards too. And I'm a born optimist!

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    1. Some countries have adopted more creative, appropriately funded methods of reducing their prison populations. In Norway only 66 out of 100,000 people are jailed but in England and Wales it's 148 out of 100,000 and 134 in Scotland.

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  7. Social reform, were they not doing it back in Victorian times. Yet those who are violent have to be punished. So we create ghettos of bad people who of course bounce of each other and return to crime outside. There is no answer.

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    1. I guess that there will always be some who need to be locked up but surely at the margins there are ways and means of reducing the prison population. Employing sufficient well-trained probation officers would be a good start.

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  8. My son has been in prison too many times to count. He's back there now for at least a year, could be longer, depending on his upcoming trials. Strangely enough my son seems to do well in prison. He has rules to live by which is good for him. He gets sober as well. It breaks my heart that he's wasting his life and missing out on his son's life. I pray every night that he becomes a good man and a good father for his son.

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    1. How tragic and yet how brave of you to put this information out there. It must break your heart when you think of the hopes you had for him when he was a little boy.

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    2. Lilycedar your story is a very common one. Many of my prison students do well in prison, and in education, because there is a firm structure in place. Is your boy going to an education centre? if so chances are the staff there will be a really good influence. I have the best colleagues I've ever had in any job. They are amazing people and we all care deeply.

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    3. My son is thirty-six, so not a boy anymore. He has a business degree which he pursued, even knowing that he would never be hired by anybody because of his criminal record. He's a drug dealer, an alcoholic and has been in jail for domestic violence as well. He is also a compulsive liar. It does break my heart and now he has a son and I just hope he never breaks his son's heart.

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  9. I was beginning to worry when you did not reply to the last comments on your previous post, and no new post appeared yesterday. Good to see you are back here and have enjoyed another sunny walk.
    When my Dad was still working, he was asked to come to Stammheim prison (where the terrorists calling themselves R.A.F. - Rote Armee Fraktion - ended up in the 1970s, and some of them ended their own lives there, too). My Dad was a printer, and the inmates were getting new equipment for their printing workshop delivered. My Dad was to help them set it all up and get it running. I was a little girl then and told all my friends at school that "my Dad is in Stammheim"!

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    1. R.A.F. means Royal Air Force - well it does over here anyway. How did your mum, with two little daughters, cope when your father was in prison? I guess he had been printing banknotes.

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  10. Good posts. I think community service would be more beneficial than prisons for non violent crime.

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    1. Is that what they gave you before you were exiled to Ireland?

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  11. I was in Canterbury last August I will have you know Mr Pudding.

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    1. That's funny. HMP Canterbury closed in 2014. Did they re-open it specially for you? I guess you were a bigwig in the IRA.

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  12. Hiya alright party. We walked past HMP Canterbury when we stayed in Canterbury.

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  13. Aha! This explains your couple of days gap from blogging. I had thought perhaps you were ill, but you were otherwise incapacitated in different institution.

    The truth will out...

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    1. Furthermore...In response to...."It seems bizarre to me that that money is not instead directed to improving people's life chances to effectively keep them out of prison."

      The greater majority of those committing the crimes know right from wrong. It is the choices they make that puts them in prison. They choose "wrong" over "right"...the path of crime instead of a worthwhile path in life, not being leeches upon society.

      The rest of society is already paying a very high price because of their criminal activities...because of their ignorant, arrogant stupidity...no amount of money directed their way is going to change their mindset.

      They are who they are...and, again, the majority of them probably enjoy being who and what they are.

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    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    3. Well, Michelle...in responding in and to someone else's blog, I certainly am not going to go off at length...debating back and forth at length...on a very lengthy, complex subject. For one thing, I respect the blogs of others...and their posts, and opinions/thoughts.

      I don't profess - I never have - to know everything. I don't know everything, which you've pointed out succinctly.

      My goodness...I left school at the age of 15 years...and I am now 75 with no letters after my name (other than letters I've kept as mementos written by loved ones now deceased - but written when they were still alive, of course).

      Strange as it may seem to you, I have lived these years without my head in the sand, too. I find it's difficult to breathe with my head buried in the sand. Like the rest of us in a democratic society, I am allowed to have an opinion of my own.

      I am sure, you being the highly-educated person you are, would appreciate that.

      This is not the correct forum to do so...and I am sure you are aware of that, too.

      My response has been more than lengthy...so my apologies to Mr. Pud for taking up space.

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    4. Lee I never suggested you weren't entitled to your opinion. Nor did I show you or Mr Pudding any disrespect. I guess Mr Pudding will make the call as to whether this is the correct forum for an exchange of views or not - he is at liberty to delete my comments if he wants.

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  14. I wish the criminal situation was as simple as you describe it. One thing for sure is that my neighbors (U.S) have got it wrong.

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    1. Black and Hispanic people in the USA are far more likely to be jailed than white people who have committed the very same crimes.

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  15. There have been so many times I have seen tiny children with parents who ignore them, yell at them when they are only being children (tired, bored, hungry, thirsty) and my heart breaks for the little ones. They often must become tough and uncaring and evasive and dishonest in order to survive their circumstances. And that is only the beginning and can lead to much worse. Most folks don't wake up every day wondering how they can screw up their own or others' lives, or how they can hurt other people. That they may end up doing so is rooted in their early history in a lot of cases. Yes to prevention. Yes to rehabilitation. Norway, as you said, is a good example of how it can work.

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    1. I think you are right to suggest that the paths that lead to jail often begin very early in life and that poor parenting is a big factor. Other big factors are of course poverty, peer group pressure and low educational achievement.

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  16. Where do I start? I am an art lecturer in a maximum security prison in Australia. You are absolutely correct in your comments about prison costs to taxpayers. It is so much cheaper to spend the money on the outside to keep people out than accommodate them. Unfortunately prisons are things most voters don't want to think about and assume everyone in there deserves it so no point wasting money on rehab.

    I liked your projected diary entry' from the inside out'.

    I would love to be more expicit and share some anecdotes, but if my comments were made known to prison security I would lose my job.

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  17. You are certainly right about the state of prisons in the USA -- it's disgraceful that we spend such vast amounts of money locking people up, often for petty offenses like marijuana possession. The laws are changing, though, as awareness grows about the costs and injustices associated with prisons. People have begun questioning minimum mandatory sentencing and that kind of thing.

    Did you see that crazy story about the 70 members of a Brazilian drug gang that tunneled out of a prison in Paraguay? I wonder if there are any tunnels running beneath HMP Lindholme? (Or Wormwood Scrubs, for that matter!)

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Mr Pudding welcomes all genuine comments - even those with which he disagrees. However, puerile or abusive comments from anonymous contributors will continue to be given the short shrift they deserve. Any spam comments that get through Google/Blogger defences will also be quickly deleted.

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