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You couldn't make it up.
post Oct 5 2010, 7:47 AM
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Today we see Ken Clark is going to stand before the Conservative Conference He is going to tell the world that he thinks we should seek companies to start opening private prison workhouses, we should make the people in those prisons work for 40 hours a week for a £10 a week wage.

Where do you think it will lead when we start making our prisons into profit making slave labour machines? Do you not think that there might be a temptation to lock people up for the slightest thing?

source Bloomberg, similar stuff on bbc ect.
Companies will benefit from a captive workforce while prisoners working 40-hour weeks will gain experience of regular employment and be able to raise money for their families, with a fifth of the cash going to victims’ groups, Justice Secretary Ken Clarke will tell delegates today at the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham, central England.

“We have to try to get those people who have the backbone to go straight to handle life without crime when they’ve finished their punishment,” Clarke will say, according to extracts released by his office. “We will make it easier for prison governors to bring more private companies into their jails to create well-run businesses, employing prisoners in regular 9-to-5 jobs.”

The coalition government is looking for companies that carry out labor-intensive work in fields where it is difficult to recruit staff, such as recycling and data entry. Facilities will be built in existing prisons and the government is also exploring the possibility of pairing with the private sector to build a new prison with a factory at its center.

The plan builds on training already done in prisons by companies including National Grid Plc and Cisco Systems Inc., Clarke will tell delegates.

Companies will have to prove that the work done by prisoners will not take jobs from people in the outside world and their jobs will be paid at the minimum wage of 5.93 pounds ($9.40) an hour. Prisoners will be allowed to keep 10 pounds a week to spend in prison, with the rest going to victims, the costs of being kept in jail and to prisoners’ families if they are on benefits.

“Most prisoners lead a life of enforced, bored idleness, where getting out of bed is optional,” Clarke will say. “We need to instil in our jails a regime of hard work.”

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post Oct 5 2010, 4:14 PM
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No. I don't.

My paranoia hasn't reached those heights yet. But give me a few years, and I may be right there with you! smile.gif

I still have a large amount of faith in the compassion shown by british sentencing decisions. In fact, it sometimes annoys me how compassionate they are.

If we cure the overcrowding issue and install work based activity in prisons (which already happens in a number of prisons without issue) then that can only be a good thing for the community.

Once prison becomes constructive, and availability rises I don't think we will pack more people into prison, I simply think we will have the opportunity to send the right people to prison. At the moment we use risk management. If someone is a risk to the community they are locked up to change their ways (which doesn't always work!). If they pose little risk we reduce their sentence heavily or release them with alternative conditions.
In future with the opportunity of work and prison space, the judge/magistrate can ask 'Will prison benefit this person, or will other methods create a greater chance of rehabilitation', rather than simply 'Is this person so dangerous to the community that I have to lock him up?!' Of course, that will always be a consideration...

For thousands of years prison has been seen as a punishment, which (for thousands of years) has been proven incorrect. Reoffending is high and even higher in the US (where prison is most certainly punishment). Britain is slowly coming round to the fact that although prison should act as a deterrant, society is so messed up that people no longer see it as such. That's a failure of a society that sees TV as a freedom, rather than being able to visit friends or go on walks in the country... But that's another arguement.

This is one step in the right direction to offer true 'correction' opportunities rather than spending on a system that is quite honestly failing.
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post Oct 6 2010, 3:00 PM
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That can't be right though can it?

You state that this idea is based on prison being both more constructive and more available. Can you not see why that is so flawed? Why you are being lied to? If this idea was so good, then why would we need more prisons? Why would we need to lock more people up?

Surely if this system worked, and as you point out it is already in some use in some prisons, then shouldn't we actually be preparing to close some of our prisons based on the data from where this is already in place?

Here are my thoughts on re-offending and prisons being a deterrent for what they are worth.

Prison is a deterrent. Most people do not want to go to prison, most people have desires at times during their lives. This might be serious and evil, or it might be something as simple as doing 35mph in a 30mph area in the midst of the early hours. It does not really matter what the desires of that person are, what matters is are their desires harmful to society and if so how do we provide a deterrent.

A deterrent can be set ridiculously low, an example of this I suppose would be being caught with very small amount of cannabis in Amsterdam. Technically still illegal but I think we would both agree there is not any actual real deterrent. An offence can also be set stupidly high, a good example of this might be committing adultery in Saudi Arabia. Which will almost certainly lead to a rather agonising death if caught. And I am sure you will agree is very much a deterrent.

Now keep that concept in mind, and lets talk for a moment about re-offending.

A lot of people repeat what they are told by TV, by Newspapers and Politicians. Why shouldn't they? These sources of information provide statistics to back up their data. The people watching these sources of information do not think for themselves, they do not say "stop!" and work thought what they have just been told, and then think for themselves what this data could actually mean. Should they at least find out who paid for this data to be collected before only accepting the conclusions they are given? Newspapers, TV and to some extent politicians are nothing but mouth pieces for big corporations. Do you realise that in USA, your own example, the companies that own some of the prisons are traded on the stock market? That the shares go up and down depending on how many people are locked up? Did you know this? Did the TV, News and Politicians bother to slip that data under your nose or did they decide, for some reason, that you should not know this? Why wouldn't they want you to know? Are they really so scared you might actually think for yourself and wake up? Are they really that worried that the conclusion you come to might be so different from what they want you to conclude? That they have to spoon feed you bad story after bad story, telling you the world is really a very bad place and you need their help in order to survive it?

Lets pretend that I had a statistic that said 90% of the people in prison will re-offend. Well that can mean several things can it not?

It could be, as you discussed, that it is a sign our system of justice does not work. For if our system actually worked then surely no one would re-offend.
It could mean our justice system actually works pretty damn good, and is quite successful in removing only the worst people from society.

Now you said that yourself in a way. You said that the system that we currently use is based on if someone was a risk to the community or not. The fact that most of the people inside prison re-offend could just be a sign that our system of justice has actually got to the point where it is pretty good at doing what it sets out to do. Selecting the really bad eggs, the ones that have gone so far off the rails that we need to protect society from them.

I think this is where rehabilitation should come in. You see, it is actually quite difficult to stop a bad dog from being a bad dog. This is the reason that dogs get put down when they attack people in a savage manner. Obviously, we can't start putting people down because they are somewhat of a nuisance to society. Yes I would like the guy who stole my video recorder to be hung drawn and quartered, but realistically if we are going to go down that line we might as well turn over the country to the Taliban, some Maoism dictator or the next Hitler candidate. This is where we come back to deterrents, the punishment needs to fit the crimes to either an individual or a society. If it does not fit the crime to society and if it is overly aggressive then it is abusive to society. It does not become abuse because it is overly aggressive, it is abusive because it is overly aggressive to us, the people.

Oh yes, where exactly was it that we last saw people who did not fit into society, that were causing no risk to society, and were locked up in prisons and told to work as it would make them into better people?

OK a bit off topic, but I think I have given you a fair bit to chew on. Stop kidding yourself that these rules are to protect you. They are not. These rules are to turn, as you pointed out, people who are not damaging society but need fixing into conforming members of society, a concept from the pages of 1984.

I wonder what sort of person that is? One that does not harm society much, but still needs fixing?

Is it someone with a different way of life to me and you perhaps?

But like I said at the beginning of this post, if you are right and if I am wrong, then we should soon start to see our prisons start to close their doors as they will have cured these people of their lawlessness.

Somehow I doubt it when they have stated they are planning on building more though, with factories built in to them.

This post has been edited by Kondor: Oct 6 2010, 3:20 PM

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post Oct 9 2010, 9:54 AM
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This is only the revival of a longstanding feature of prisons, brought back to life by the need to do something constructive with an apparently idle labour force.

Broadly speaking, discussions of prison labour are consequent to two things; a slump in the economy and recurrent pessimism over the inability of prisons to rehabilitate prisoners. If we can't make prisoners productive members of society, we can at least make 'em productive. What seems to be driving this is a shift from the discipline of the soul back to the discipline of the body.

There's no consistent or empirical proof that prisoners are rehabilitable. Success is offered only by enclosing selected prisoners in selected programmes in selected conditions. This allows us to create ideal conditions that are an enhancement on ordinary life while greatly increasing the cost. It also identifies prisoners who are willing to look at themselves critically and make an effort to change. That last idea isn't rare only among prisoners, it's the exception in people in general. People mostly change at urgent need, usually following a severe loss, very few spend their time thinking about how to be a bigger or better person for their own sake. To be good is aspirational, to be good enough is usually sufficient.

Rehabilitation in prison, John McVicar noted, is a lot like being in hell and dreaming of heaven. Its possible to picture it, believe in it and work towards it, but its foolish to assume that it exists and one is on the way there. Rehab also assumes that prisoners are habilitable in the first place and have lost that social, co-operative, productive state of earthly grace. My years of experience inform me that there are lots of hard-luck stories in prison and theres a place for sympathy, but you can't forget that almost all prisoners are difficult and dangerous people. The ones I've worked with share a peaceable understanding on the whole and can even be friendly, but they'd take my money if I left it behind and they'd go for me if it helped them somehow. They either haven't learned moral restraint, or don't recognise it. Critical thinking has to consider raising the standard for the masses as much as investing in great expectations for a tiny handful. Its worth taking a moment to consider the social strata in prisons in terms of their attitude to embracing society.

There are a small number of prisoners who're ordinary people in over their heads and desperate to get out. An act of foolishness or greed, a gambled opportunity, a fit of passion and they're torn out of their comfort zone. They have love, education, stability and security on the outside and they've over-reached themselves. These are rare individuals who if not ashamed, are certainly unable to escape an expanded sense of perspective. They're also the only people for whom rehabilitation consistently takes place, but that's not down to the prisons, its down to them having society waiting to pick them up again when they're out. Maybe a rung or two down the ladder, but still hopeful and still capable. Nowadays, due to overcrowding, they're only imprisoned if they go way, way over the mark. Their statistical significance is so small that to base the purpose of prisons on their population is madness.

The majority of prisoners are small-time outlaws and hustlers. Street criminals involved in theft, mugging, prostitution, drug and traffic crimes. Most are addicts on one point or another of the cycle. They're generally poorly educated, grow up on social security, hang out with other hustlers and don't mind using a bit of violence to sort out the pecking order and protect their property. They have high-expressed emotion families, social workers, probation officers and so on, being monitored by the fringe guardians of the state. A small number are outlaws who make their own luck, but most are accustomed to taking handouts and going through win-lose situations on a day to day basis. Some try to romanticise their image by gangbanging or hanging around areas of notoriety, but they also manage the unpleasant truths of their lives with drugs. Many carry a weapon to get them through tough spots and their sense of right and wrong is grossly distorted. Pushed a little on their beliefs, they offer an argument of resignation that life has taught them that you can get by on the generosity of others and shouldn't cause them hassle unless you need something, in which case you have a right to claim it. A few outspoken individuals will tell you that any act of the state is a move toward slavery, that they have no obligations to "the man" and that there's no personal distinction between charity, hustling and welfare. Some give and some take and no-one should be punished for stretching that relationship. If you want to work yourself, go ahead, but don't expect them to be impressed, and don't judge them, you don't know them, okay?

Prison for these people is an inevitable feature of their lifestyle and they're okay with it. You get food, warmth, medicine and meet a lot of friends on the remand and transfer circuits and you don't have to do much to get by. It's quite enabling. The more experienced ones can evade prison unless they're sick or cold or starving, whereupon they'll commit a minor crime or surrender themselves to a warrant. I've met a number of young men in hospitals who prefer prison to life outside and certainly to a more unpleasant life at home. Prison is too enabling to make them change, they wouldn't even think of it that way. These I would say, are the people prison labour is aimed at. Most of them have never learned to work and aren't going to make for a well-organised or skilled labour force. You can make them work if the stick is big enough, but I can't see that they'll make anyone a fortune. Communist countries turn a profit, but only by making prisons into Gulags and I don't see any signs of us going that far as yet.

At the top of the social strata are the predators. Some are organised, some are reckless and all are indifferent to being in or out of prison. Predatory lifers range from efficient hustlers to absolute psychopaths. Other people are a resource and other possessions are their property. What they want is important, what you have is where to get it and who you are doesn't even register. There is no way these people will work when they can take, their environment is no deterrent to them and they don't change. Theres the additional difficulty that the cost of security provisions against escapes, sabotage, weapon-making, rioting, aggravated violence and their associated risks will always override the economy of running a productive workforce. At this level, we're still working on the goal of less victims.

Clearly, I'm skeptical about the validity of prison labour. Not as an instrument of terror by the state, but more that its marketing pitch has to be above workhouse level but less than factory work. Rehabilitation is something of a dead argument during times of high unemployment. There's no mirror to the outside world and you have to imagine society's response if released prisoners get even crappy jobs over non-criminal unemployed, because they have more experience and training. I'm not sure what the alternative is. I'd say the making the punishment fit the crime argument is helpful in a small number of prisoners, but again that would assume an understanding of cause and effect and a degree of empathy that most people inside don't have. Maybe it still has a chance for first-time inmates. I'm open-minded on where this will go for now, the results will take about five years to evidence and I don't see anything novel in the proposed regime. If there's a new way, I'll be the first in line… but it better work this time. smile.gif

This post has been edited by Marlowe: Oct 9 2010, 6:08 PM
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post Oct 10 2010, 12:31 PM
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post Nov 11 2010, 8:28 AM
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outside in this way, and ugg indoor slipperswith any luck would never return to prison. As slaves, there would be more insentive to see that they do return, which poses as a threat to society.
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post Jan 19 2011, 9:36 AM
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QUOTE (wuwenling @ Nov 11 2010, 8:28 AM) *
outside in this way, and ugg indoor sgdgffggfgfsdslipperswith any luck would never return to prison. As slaves, there would be more insentive to see that they do return, which poses as a threat to society.

QUOTE (dressale @ Jan 12 2011, 8:11 AM) *
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You couldn't make it up

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post Jan 19 2011, 9:30 PM
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Sad really.



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