Government penal policies under f‘rc

The Government has raised the stakes on law and order ahead of a forthcoming general election, but will the policy backfire? As Stephen Naysmith reports, the talking has been tough on all sides.

Hostile reaction to the Government‘s tougher penal policies intensified this week when a senior prison officerjoined the critics.

Speaking exclusively to The List. Derek Turner. general secretary of the Scottish Prison Officer‘s Association (SPOA). called fora European investigation into why Scotland locks up more of its population per head than any other European nation. ‘We have got to do something about it rather than pick out individual parts of the criminal justice system for criticism.‘ he said.

Turner branded the Governrnent‘s tougher policies as mere rhetoric. saying they bore little relation to what was actually happening in prisons. ‘All this talk of a harsh regime is just a vote catcher.‘ he said. ‘The Conservative Party say they are tough on law and order. but the philosophy of re-integrating people into society is not compatible with ministers‘ statements.‘

Schemes such as Opportunities And Responsibilities. encourage prisoners to take responsibility in return for access to privileges such as education. telephones and remission.

Recent ministerial statements have confused staff and prisoners. according to Tumer. ‘Having made guarantees to prisoners. staff are expected to deliver. but they don‘t know where they stand. because Michael Forsyth is ultimately their boss.‘ he explained.

Over the years. the Government has refused to accept a link between offending behaviour and social conditions. Tumer disagrees: ‘The social fabric of the country has been ripped apart through drugs. poverty and homelessness. The Govemment has failed to address a whole raft of social issues.‘ he claimed.

‘lfyou encourage a greed society, where the media. television and advertising all show people what they are expected to have. for many. their only chance is crime. ‘lfthey haven‘t got food. they will steal it. If This will mean even less chance for prisoners to be they can‘t afford a video or a TV they will steal that reformed while they are inside. says Rona Connolly. too.‘ SACRO‘s director of resources. ‘What programmes

Turner is not alone in his criticism. Law and order there are in prisons are by and large effective. but they

Quiet halls: law changes may disturb the calm

been among those speaking out against the measures suggested by ministers.

In January. Home Secretary Michael Howard launched Making The Punishment [’1‘] The Crime. a plan to end the automatic early release of prisoners. He believes the disparity between the sentence given and the time served is illogical and unjust in the eyes ofthe public. and that stricter sentences will act as a deterrent. However Lord Chief Justice Taylor was at the forefront of an angry reaction from judges. ‘What deters [criminals] is the likelihood of being caught. which at the moment is small.‘ he countered.

Meanwhile. in a speech to the Prison Reform Trust. the Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey warned against the ‘climate of revenge‘. calling instead for investment in community-based rehabilitation and reintegration.

The Scottish Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders (SACRO) were also broadly critical in their response to the Home Secretary‘s consultation paper. They claim the prison population in Scotland will rise by 8000 under the new proposals. requiring the construction of three new prisons.

‘l’eople are being locked up when they do not present a danger to the public. While the Government pour more money into imprisonment which has proved not to work. community disposals which do work are starved of resources.‘

Also in Scotland. Michael Forsth moved last week to toughen up Community Service orders. ‘We need to send a clear message to potential offenders if you think you are going to have an easy time undertaking your community service order. you are making a serious mistake.‘ he said. However these plans too have been attacked. especially for requiring offenders to wearjackets emblazoned with the words (‘miimimify Service ()n/cr.

This is counter-productive. according to Carole Ewart of the Scottish Council for Civil Libeities. ‘Why label people'." she says. ‘The point of punishment is not to humiliate people. but to make them make a valuable contribution.‘

Whether the public are being swayed by any of the arguments remains unclear. Many of those who have criticised the Govemment are calling for a complete rethink of penal policy. However the Labour Party has kept a low profile. offering little beyond Tony Blair‘s promise to be ‘tough on crime. tough on the causes of crime.‘

If there isn‘t a rethink. Turner warns of trouble

has always been thought of as a trump card for the Conservative Party. But their moves to toughen up treatment of offenders have run into an unexpected backlash in recent weeks. Judges. civil liberties campaigners and the Archbishop of Canterbury. have

for it to work anyway.‘

are already available to very few people and the situation will worsen as the prison population rises.‘ she says. ‘If people are living with no prospect of remission the participants won‘t be motivated enough

ahead. ‘Staff will be injured if prisoners react against harsher regimes. in the past when prisoners had few opportunities and were locked tip all the time there were more assaults on staff.‘ he said. (Stephen Naysmith)

And finally . . . American culinary tips are reekin’ and rich

America‘s network news show 'Ibday was in Edinburgh sorry, Edinboro this week on its annual foreign holiday. broadcasting live to the folks back home from Princes Street Gardens. Amongst the night‘s top stories were items on Dunblane (fair enough). devolution (inevitable) and Lockerbie. Lockerbie‘.’ And they call this news? Never mind a parliament. a nation is only worth taking seriously when an American jet-liner has landed on its head.

While Today anchor Bryant Gumbel (an anagram. surely) was undergoing an arduous whisky tasting session. his co-presenter Katie Couric was picking over the entrails of that great Chieftain

o’ the puddin race. the baggis. Ever- helpful with the serving suggestions. Courie ventured some changes to the national dish. ‘lt‘s the idea of the casing I find hard to stomach.‘ she said without trace of irony. Perhaps the concept was unfamiliar to her (hey. we‘re dealing in cultural stereotypes here). ‘Maybe if it was stuffed in a mushroom cap it would be more palatable.‘ Thanks for the tip. Katie. but wasn‘t it your compatriot Dorothy Parker who said life‘s too short to stuff a mushroom?

Away the lads. part I: Oasis can now be described as bigger than The Beatles and therefore on a technical knockout. Jesus having sold 333.000 tickets for their outdoor shows this summer in a record nine hours. That‘s

a supersonic ten tickets per second. Whether you take the high road or the low road. routes north are likely to be bumper-to-bumper on the August bank holiday weekend of their Loch Lomond gigs.

Away the lads. part 2: lrvine Welsh made a shame-faced apology to football fans in general and Rangers supporters in particular after recording an alternative anthem for Scotland‘s Euro ()6 campaign. Under the alias of The Big Man and the Scream Team meets the Barmy Army. Welsh anti Scots rockers Primal Scream put together a sensitive rap which goes thus: ‘In every hick town across the pseudo nation. you can see the most fucked-up scum who were shat into creation. where a blue McEwans lager

top equals no imagination. Think

you‘re a success, your psyche's a

mess' before finishing on the line: ‘Your HUN-believable.‘

Describing himself as upset at yet another trashing of his beloved Hibs by Rangers. Welsh has admitted this out-of—character rant came across as the tears of a ‘bigoted clown‘. He has offered to donate his royalties from the song to a Rangers-nominated charity. Expect further controversy when Welsh‘s new book is published next month. called simply lz‘i'stusy.

And finally. did you hear the one about the hearse clocked doing 96 mph in 1160 mph limit‘.’ The police are confident the body ot‘evidence will be enough to secure a conviction. Groan.

(Eddie Gibb)

The List 17-30 May 1996 5