Saturday, May 06, 2006

Prison priorities

Good article by Tom Stacey in this week's Spectator (subscription required, hence the long cut'n'paste job):
The large London penitentiary where I have been a prison visitor for three decades has established, at New Labour’s behest, an elite team of warders and probation officers who, in their own words as displayed on notices all over the prison, are ‘passionate about Diversity and Equality’.

These officials make up the ‘Diversity Team’, and most of the 130 or so penal establishments in England and Wales have set up their equally devoted teams, all committed to making our foreign national offenders snug and valued in Blighty, at least for the time being. The Diversity Teams are naturally proud of their role in life, which they describe in laminated notices wherever there is space on the prison’s walls. The Diversity Team’s notice in my prison is worth quoting in full:

‘Our aim,’ it announces to all who can read English, ‘is to provide information, advice, support and guidance to the senior management team, staff and prisoners, thus ensuring HM Prison provides an effective professional and responsible service in this area.

‘We will act as a local focal point for issuing, developing, implementing and monitoring policies in the field of Diversity.

‘As the catalyst for Diversity, we will assist the senior management team in ensuring HM Prison lives up to its commitment to embrace and value Diversity.’

This notice is followed by a declaration from the prison governor himself: ‘I will oversee all matters relating to Diversity. The Diversity Team and I will work closely to ensure HM Prison is a working environment that promotes and encourages good working relationships.’

Naturally enough, each member of the Diversity Team has his or her specific function for his or her diverse charges. In my nick there’s a team leader (a black woman) called ‘Diversity Manager’, another black woman called ‘Equal Opportunities Officer’, a third called ‘Foreign Nationals’ Co-ordinator’, a white woman called ‘Administration Support’, and a chap called ‘Disability Liaison Officer’. That must all be pretty reassuring if you are a benighted foreign national in the clink. True, there may not be an actual Diversity Team member explicitly allocated to help you to disappear into the community rather than face deportation — a ‘Deportation Evasion Co-ordinator’, for example — but you’re nonetheless getting a feel of where the heart of the system lies.

The annual Diversity Awards dished out by the Home Office to Diversity Teams from all over the country (at a national ceremony held at the London School of Economics) actually have an award category called ‘Innovation: an area which is often neglected’. I hope Mr Clarke won’t mind if I suggest a new award in the category: ‘Advice on How to Disappear into the Community at End of Sentence’.

The fact is that the Prison Service has the strangest priorities. A few weeks ago my jail was shown by Channel Five’s MacIntyre Investigates to have punished no fewer than 170 prisoners for possessing drugs and 230 for having illegal mobile phones in 2005; to have had more than 100 drug parcels lobbed in over walls; and to have saved the careers (on the insistence of the Prison Officers’ Association, the unreformed warders’ union) of various named warders known to have smuggled in drugs and alcohol and sold favours to prisoners. Plenty has been going wrong, in other words: more than enough to keep prison staff busy, you might think. So it makes one gulp to see so much time and effort devoted to feelgood pap.
You can see how taxpayers’ money is being spent at a time when ‘lack of resources’ is cited as the main excuse for the foreign prisoners scandal.
It's all arse about tit. Instead of criminals being taught to respect authority, they now demand, and get, respect from it. No wonder recidivism rates are so high.


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