Can we have a new Justice Secretary already?

Life must be made harder for criminals, Justice Secretary Chris Grayling has said, as he pledges to crack down on prisoners watching television and enjoying themselves.

Ghastly tosspot.

The punishment of prison is the loss of liberty. Not the loss of the ability to find some enjoyment in life. As a certain Mr. Solzhenitseyn pointed out even those locked into the Gulag and being worked to death were able to find some enjoyments in the life they were soon to leave.

So \”stopping prisoners enjoying themselves\” is going to be something of a hard road.

But there\’s more to it than this. How do you keep order among a few hundred rapists, conmen, murderers, druggies and nonces that you\’ve decided to lock up for a few years? With a programme of rewards and punishments of course. You do your bird like a nice quiet little boy and we\’ll let you watch the footie. You start brawling and we\’ll take away your x-box.

The purpose of these \”treats\” is so that there is something to take away from those whose liberty you are already restricting.

And anyone who doesn\’t understand this is unfit to be \”Justice\” Minister.

Ghastly little tosspot.

42 comments on “Can we have a new Justice Secretary already?

  1. JuliaM’s solution of just butchering them all along with the nearest dozen or so people is much more efficient.

  2. This isn’t the only way to look at it. “The punishment of prison is the loss of liberty”, as a deterrent. But there’s no fundamental reason why deterrent should stop at that; it could just as easily be “The punishment of prison is the loss of liberty in an austere environment without X-boxes, which makes prisoners not want to go back there, thus functioning as a more effective deterrent than a hotel environment with X-boxes”.

    Your point about using treats as a way to keep order is a separate point. And it’s sufficient but not necessary: there are other ways of keeping order. Keeping order in a prison is one of the easier problems of life.

  3. The punishment of prison is the loss of liberty. Not the loss of the ability to find some enjoyment in life.

    Their ability to find some enjoyment in life will be unimpaired. Their ability to find enjoyment through a big TV screen will be. It is absurd to say that the punishment is merely the loss of liberty. It is not. It is the loss of liberty and many of the ordinary enjoyments in life. They do not get to go down to their local and get pissed for instance. Should they? They used to suffer sexual deprivation. I doubt they do any more. But certainly they do not get to do many of the things they used to enjoy – kicking the sh!t out of the smaller and weaker members of the public for instance. Why should they?

    And why should the rest of us pay to keep them in a life style with all the modern gadgets the rest of us would like to be accustom?

    As a certain Mr. Solzhenitseyn pointed out even those locked into the Gulag and being worked to death were able to find some enjoyments in the life they were soon to leave.

    Indeed. And so can British prisoners. I think this comparison is utterly bizarre if not shameful. TW is comparing British prisons with the Gulag? No, obviously not. Does he think that the Zeks got big screen TVs? I hope not. And yet they were able to find some pleasure in life. So will British prisoners – with or without big screen TVs.

    So “stopping prisoners enjoying themselves” is going to be something of a hard road.

    I suspect Solzhenitsyn did not mean pleasure in that sense.

    But there’s more to it than this. How do you keep order among a few hundred rapists, conmen, murderers, druggies and nonces that you’ve decided to lock up for a few years? With a programme of rewards and punishments of course.

    Which we no longer do. We now talk to them and try to make them understand that everyone will be happier if we all co-operate in achieving the Department’s goals. But even if we used a system of punishments and rewards, what is wrong with saying that system ought to be more strong on the punishment and less lavish with the rewards?

    You do your bird like a nice quiet little boy and we’ll let you watch the footie. You start brawling and we’ll take away your x-box.

    How about you do your bird and we will let you talk to other prisoners, start brawling and you won’t see the sun but for an hour a day?

    The purpose of these “treats” is so that there is something to take away from those whose liberty you are already restricting.

    There’s the problem – we don’t punish so all we can do is reward.

  4. If your life consists of bouts of criminal activity followed by laying about playing on the xbox in your home. In what way is going to prison to play the xbox any different?
    Loss of liberty must be the starting point of punishment. Incentives like said xbox can and should come later in the process. The life they live and the course it will lead can be changed but not by doing what they already do in a different room to which they do not hold the key.

  5. This wasn’t a policy statement, it’s a report in the Telegraph of an interview with the Daily Mail. The bit in the sub-head about stopping prisoners enjoying themselves doesn’t appear in the interview.

  6. There’s a perfectly good argument that prisoners may earn the right to watch TV and otherwise get better ways of passing time inside. It’s also a good point that there should not be an entitlement culture, that a prisoner who cannot play XBOX is having his human rights violated.

  7. James james and others.

    So where does this curtailment of enjoyment end , banning books perhaps ? Maybe letters too or how about reducing rations to the basic necessary for survival, of course we’ll have to fork out a lot more in compensation to injured prison officers and repairs to prisons after the riots but worth it I’m sure as long as someone is suffering, that’s the main thing. As for paying to keep them in a lifestyle to which they are accustomed, why not exactly ? The sole purpose of prison is to keep criminals away from the rest of us for a while, obviously this involves costs and we might as well pay to make them as docile as possible whilst they are there. Personally I’d be in favour of letting them have access to whatever drugs they can get, not that they can’t do that anyway but why waste time and money trying to stop it ? but then I’m one of those people the social conservatives here wouldn’t like as I’m in favour of legalising drugs anyway.

  8. “So where does this curtailment of enjoyment end?”

    A good question, but there’s no clear winning answer. I personally would not allow X-boxes or free weights but would allow books, chess, gym etc. My reasoning being that X-boxes are expensive fun with slight relevance to a life of crime, and we don’t want criminals doing weight training, but we do want people to stay fit because it’s good for them.

    “The sole purpose of prison is to keep criminals away from the rest of us for a while”

    No. That is a very good purpose of prison but it is not the sole purpose. I want prisons to have a deterrent effect as well, to reduce the number of criminals and reduce costs.

  9. I don’t forget the rehabilitation requirement, as is clear from my mention of books etc, but I don’t want people to think that is the sole purpose, as many lefties do.

  10. I find it bizarre that some people are against prisoners suffering but aren’t against prisons. Do they think that imprisonment isn’t a cause of suffering?

  11. James James

    Rehabilitation in prisons is largely a joke, I had my eyes opened to this and prison life generally by one of my nieces who worked as a librarian in a prison library. many of the inmates are career criminals who just see life inside as an occupational hazard, there is little chance of changing such people so locking them up for a time – perhaps longer than we do now in some cases – is the only sensible approach. There is no need to make their lives intolerable, that kind of thing may pretend to be justice and rehabilitation but is actually just revenge, since we have delegated our rights to personal revenge to the state there is no moral justification for giving the state permission to inflict extra suffering, it’s perfectly capable of doing that itself anyway. There is already a system of privileges which are only available for good behaviour, how will depriving prisoners of TVs help to make that more workable ?

  12. “As for paying to keep them in a lifestyle to which they are accustomed, why not exactly ?”

    because we’re footing the bill. So they don’t get to say “I’m accustomed to that so I want it” WE get to say “we’re paying for it, so we call the shots”. Or monetise them so they pay for themselves. Plenty of menial work they could do pro bono publico.

    “The sole purpose of prison is to keep criminals away from the rest of us for a while,”

    It is, but it shouldn’t be. There should be elements of rehabilitation, education, and deterrence.

    “Personally I’d be in favour of letting them have access to whatever drugs they can get”

    so would I – with the exception of stimulants. But I’m fine with them being stoned or high or whacked out on acid. Not sure we want them cranked up on meth or angel dust though.

    “I’m in favour of legalising drugs anyway.”

    Me too. Tax and regulate.

  13. sam

    We have to pay the bills anyway, I am entirely unconvinced that making life bleaker for criminals is the way to lower them. That doesn’t work for the rest of us why should it work in prisons ?

  14. SMFS (#3) -Spot on. Tim, I’ve found at least five other items on Murphy’s blog (and I appreciate you don’t want to give him exposure) that involve steps towards the creation of a Stalinist state, significant loss of personal freedom and infringements of national sovereignty, and you post on this?

    When speaking to the myriad nationalities I have encountered in the UK, all who have acquaintance with the UK prison system (usually second or third hand) compare it in a sense of wonder with those of whichever part of the globe they come from. Be it Eastern Europe, Sub Saharan Africa or the Caribbean, in every case, their belief is the primary purpose of prison is punishment. The idea that in, say, Kenya, Jamaica or Albania that prisoners would be able to bring a case that they should have the vote, let alone that solitary confinement is a ‘breach of their human rights’ strikes people from other countries as absurd.

    It’s all very well using a Soviet gulag as comparison, and with Richard Murphy looming as the next government’s primary economic advisor, probably appropriate, but I question whether there is an appropriate balance between punishment and reward. It may be that our ‘progressive’ system is far too skewed in a our of a liberal regime.

  15. James James @ 12

    Not sure what your point is there, are you suggesting that since prions are awful to start with there’s no problem with making them worse ? Why not go the whole hog and bring back oakum picking and the treadmill. As I said above we have delegated our rights to revenge to the state, one of the few areas in which the state is useful, so prison is an unfortunate necessity, that doesn’t mean we have to treat prisoners as slaves.

  16. “Not sure what your point is there, are you suggesting that since prions are awful to start with there’s no problem with making them worse ? Why not go the whole hog and bring back oakum picking and the treadmill.”

    You’re making a slippery slope argument. “If we take away X-boxes, then what next? The treadmill?”

    Er, no. We can take away X-boxes without bringing back treadmills. We can make prisons somewhat less pleasant without making them much less pleasant. Taking away X-boxes will not inevitably lead to torture.

    The fact that there is no from-first-principles way to work out the “correct” amount of pleasure for prisoners doesn’t really help either side of this argument more than the other.

  17. Taking away X-boxes will not inevitably lead to torture.

    Much to the disappointment of certain sectors of society.

  18. “The punishment of prison is the loss of liberty.”

    Is that even true? I was under the impression the sole (official) purpose of our prisons is rehabilitation – no vengeance in the mix.

  19. Thornavis,

    I believe what you really would like to bring back is hard labour and the chain gang. Oakum picking and the treadmill were punishments reserved for those who had committed no crime except being unemployed and penniless.

    Interestingly, my local doctor’s surgery is housed in what was formerly the North Kent Workhouse. It still looks grim and institutional even today.

  20. Oscar Wilde in 1895 was reported to have been put on the treadmill in Pentonville until he collapsed, but thereafter allowed to remain in his cell, picking oakum only if he chose to. He had been convicted for gross indecency.

  21. James james

    No I’m not making a slippery slope argument, I was suggesting that we have moved away from the idea of punishment for its own sake and depriving prisoners of X Boxes and TVs was a move back to that concept, there’s no practical reason for it otherwise.

  22. I was under the impression the sole (official) purpose of our prisons is rehabilitation – no vengeance in the mix.

    One of the three – which has clearly failed, most probably through a lack of investment. The other two being deterrence (which has clearly failed – probably through prison not really being seen as much of a punishment for the hardened criminal section of society) and the protection of society.

    Which hasn’t ‘clearly’ failed – prison that is. The failure, in that regard, seems to be a combination of bail for people who go on to commit further crimes while on remand and non-custodial sentences for violent hardened recidivists.

    See JuliaM’s blog, on a daily basis, for the gory details.

  23. Frankly these hotel like prisons where everyone has an x-box and a big screen TV are a figment of the imagination of daily mail readers. I’ve toured several different prisons in a professional capacity and I’ve never once seen an x-box or a big screen TV in a Cat-C or above prison. A 14 inch TV with the standard five channels if you’re on full privileges is about it.

  24. “‘The punishment of prison is the loss of liberty.’

    Is that even true? I was under the impression the sole (official) purpose of our prisons is rehabilitation – no vengeance in the mix.”

    Correct. The four traditional purposes of prison are punishment, deterrent, incapaciation, and rehabilitation.

    I don’t care for punishment, but the others seem sensible for me. Incapaciation is about making things better for everyone else by just getting criminals out of the way. And deterrent and rehabilitation are about reducing the number of criminals, and cutting costs.”

    The prevailing modern ideology doesn’t care for punishment, but for some reason also doesn’t like deterrent so pretends it doesn’t work. It doesn’t care for incapacitation, and thinks rehabilitation is more effective than it is: these two things combined result in the letting out of prisoners early who then go and commit more crimes. E.g. the guy who recently killed two policewomen was on parole. Norman Tebbit: “I have kept track year by year since the death penalty was suspended then abolished of the number of people who have been killed by persons previously convicted of homicide. It has averaged three people a year. About 150 people killed because their killers have been freed to kill again.”

  25. Thornavis, you’re not very bright, are you?

    “I was suggesting that we have moved away from the idea of punishment for its own sake and depriving prisoners of X Boxes and TVs was a move back to that concept, there’s no practical reason for it otherwise.”

    Er, deterrent? You keep ignoring other possibilities to your argument. “The **sole** purpose of prison is to keep criminals away from the rest of us for a while”

  26. Matt’s comment at #29 is the most interesting. But I don’t believe that prisons don’t have X-boxes. They do. They shouldn’t.

  27. James James
    There was me thinking we were having a civilised discussion, oh well. If you want to believe that depriving prisoners of TVs is some kind of a deterrent then carry on, I’d suggest that makes you the un- bright one in this conversation. My reference to sole purpose in the original comment was because I’d say it was fairly obvious that deterrent and rehabilitation don’t work so removing criminals from the company of the rest of us was the only priority, I’m not interested in revenge fantasies.

  28. @ James James @ 32:
    You may not believe it but it’s true. I imagine most stories of this sort refer to Cat-D prisons, which you probably wouldn’t really recognise as a prison anyway. If a prisoner is in a Cat-D prison they’re allowed to leave during the day to visit family or work and they can bring things from home like games consoles. You could even drive your car right into the prison yourself and hardly notice. The majority of prisoners are in Cat-C and above prisons, which are what you would actually think of as prisons. Like I say, I’ve toured several and I’ve never seen an x-box or a big screen TV. Now, I haven’t visited every prison in the country admittedly, but it’s certainly not a widespread phenomenon.

  29. Matt

    I can’t contradict you from personal experience but I know that in the Cat B prison where my niece worked the prisoners did have x boxes, not that it matters.

  30. “My reference to sole purpose in the original comment was because I’d say it was fairly obvious that deterrent and rehabilitation don’t work”

    It’s pretty obvious that deterrent does work, if you look at the research that has been published on the matter.

  31. James James

    OK it’s an exaggeration to say that deterrence doesn’t work, obviously it can do but it’s surely a question of degree. I’d want a lot of persuading that making life more tedious for prisoners would act as a useful deterrent. The main deterrent is the risk of getting caught but even more the sense that committing crimes is wrong, neither of those are a strong as they used to be so the battle is already half lost, once inside it takes a lot harsher penalties than the absence of x boxes to have a deterrent effect, removing them is just one of those pointless gestures that politicians and social conservatives seem to like.

  32. Gralying has a new job, he’s got to say something to improve the image of the Tory party, so saying “we’re removing toys from prisons” is an obvious, easy pledge that doesn’t even need to be fulfilled (and probably won’t be). Unfortunately, in playing to the gallery, he and his ilk just make it harder for society to come to reasonable conclusions about what should be done.

    An underlying issue is one of those where ‘society’ doesn’t seem to have a coherent, consistent view of what it wants. We want to deter, punish, incapacitate and mitigate recidivism. Society only wants bad stuff to happen in prison. But prison with only bad stuff doesn’t seem to do much to mitigate recidivism.

    The most important issue is why people turn to crime in the first place. And much of that is about socio-economic factors that we can’t seem to get right.

  33. @ Thornavis: I wouldn’t be surprised, prison governors are pretty much kings as far as what is and isn’t allowed, so in a few prisons it may be the case.

    I do think it matters though because it feeds into this prison is like a wonderful holiday camp myth. It isn’t, and wouldn’t be even with games consoles. But what certainly isn’t a deterrent to young people who haven’t been to prison before is all the daily mail types who like to talk about how it’s all sunshine and rainbows. Which is ironic since they’re the ones who like to talk the most about using prison as a deterrent.

  34. It appears that Matt was correct about x boxes. I asked my niece for her views and she had this to say:

    “No they don’t get them as a matter of course. They have to buy them, and have them delivered through an agency that works with the prison so they are often more expensive than the average prisoner can afford.. They can only do this once they have reached a certain behaviour category which they work up to through being engaged in education and work. Conversely things like this can be removed from the cell for bad behaviour and so on. They are then also limited to what they are allowed to play on them or watch. They can only buy certain types as the newer ones have USB leads which are banned. In my experience very few prisoners had them, they are more likely to buy themselves a cheap DVD player.”

    So much for being funded by the taxpayer and having a lifestyle equal or better to the one outside and how doing away with this privilege will have any sort of positive effect I really don’t know.

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