A Curious Girl

The musings of a girl who is curious in both senses of the word. Life, God, and York. Oh, did I say York? I meant Bradford!

Saturday, September 29, 2007

My 2p on the prison system

The state of the prison/justice system has got me quite upset.

For instance, on the buses around Bradford there is a sign saying "turn in a tagger", telling you that there is a £2000 fine or possibly prison for tagging. A tagger is a graffiti artist (or "street artist" if you're a proper lefty :)). Tagging is scribbling your alias on public property. Exactly the sort of dangerous criminals who should be behind bars. Especially when prison numbers are at an all time high.

In related news, two young graffiti artists have been sent to prison for 15 months and 12 months respectively.

Call me stupid, but isn't this precisely the sort of non-violent, non-dangerous crime to which a community service sentence would be appropriate? Cleaning up graffiti, picking up litter, tending public gardens, that sort of thing. Perhaps with also with a fine to cover the cost of the damage.

But something that produced an even greater score on my WTF? scale, has to be this charming story.
Young offenders are being forcibly strip searched according to a report by prison inspectors.

On one occasion at Werrington Youth Offenders' Institution, Staffs, an inmate had his clothing cut off during a search, the inspectors said.

...In particular Ms Owers said inspectors were concerned about the forcible strip search of an agitated inmate, involving three officers holding him down while his clothing was cut off, despite the fact he was willing to comply.

"Werrington had been through a trying period as a result of the population crisis," she said.

"Though it had continued to improve in a number of areas, the weaknesses we identified in safety were serious and required urgent management attention.

"Werrington is still some distance from its stated ambition of being a safe and effective 'secure college'."

Phil Wheatley, Director General of the Prison Service, said generally it was a good report, and said officers had acted "correctly" during the search of the inmate in question.

"As to the incident involving the strip search of the young person, I have seen the video and reviewed the matter in great detail," he said.

"I am convinced that at no point in the process was he compliant and the staff involved dealt with the incident correctly in the circumstances, when faced by a difficult and disturbed young man."


It is such a disturbing image... the idea that officers are apparently acting correctly by holding down and ripping the clothes from an inmate. It is far beyond the firm discipline that could help someone change... it's a simple act of humiliation.

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