With riots in major cities escalating over the past few days, it seems that looting and arson have become de rigeur as part of a decent night out on the town for today’s youngsters.
Rioting’s appeal for the gangs of scrotes involved has arguably been enhanced by the refusal of successive Governments to combat low level criminality. This has led the perpetrators to suspect – rightly – that there a is slim-to-none chance of any of them being given more than a mild slap across the wrist for their misdemeanours. Pressures on the Police, the Courts and the Prison Service – which can basically be summarised as “too much crime, too few police and too few cells” – have all combined to bring about a situation in which the types of neighbourhood crime that make people’s everyday lives a continuing misery are effectively condoned.
Our Home Secretary, Theresa May, beset, as she is, by problems in pretty much all aspects of the Home Office – which was described during the previous Government’s tenure as “unfit for purpose” and hasn’t obviously improved since – is clearly in need of some help with the whole too-much-crime-too-few-cells thing. Accordingly, I’d like to bring the mighty creative brain that is the Internet to bear on the subject.
The kinds of solutions suggested by Home Office aides so far – for example: don’t send any more bad people to prison; release lots of bad people from prison early, so that you can continue to send lots of other bad people to prison – strike me as having significant flaws. Perhaps, like me, you were able to spot those within a microsecond’s contemplation. Far be it from me to question the qualifications of these aides, but, if you were the Home Secretary, wouldn’t you be hoping for something a teensy bit more meaty?
Now, please don’t get me wrong. I have no official qualifications making me an expert in prison reform. All I can do is offer my ideas and hope they spark some brushfires of the imagination out there in Central Government. Feel free to add your own thoughts, and let’s see if we can’t resolve a major crisis.
Idea Number One
Anyone of a certain age will remember that film where Tony Curtis and Sidney Poitier are chained together and make a bid for freedom. If you’re of an age where you’re also pretty certain that Marilyn Monroe and Jack Lemmon were in it, you might not recall that the film was, in fact, “The Defiant Ones”.
But I digress.
The chain gang. Now, there’s a scheme that gets a good day’s work out of the prison populace: breaking rocks, digging ditches, basically working the whole, livelong day in the unforgiving sun.
So here’s where a little bit of lateral thinking comes in. Too few cells, right? Not enough room in our prisons? But what if – “Eureka!” – half the prison population was out during the day, and the other half during the night? You see my drift? Prisoners would spend twelve hours on a chain gang, doing something useful like rebuilding the bits of London the rioters trashed, or something public-spirited, like building a very large, impenetrable wall around Cher Lloyd. Then, when their time was up, they’d be back to the Scrubs and handing over to the Night Shift to carry on the good work.
Without building a single new cell, you would immediately have doubled the capacity of Britain’s prisons, which should result in sufficient space for the current crop of idiot rioters. The really clever thing would then be to get the chain gangs to build more prisons. With a bit of planning we could have the problem licked in time for the riots at next year’s Olympics.
Critics will no doubt point to the significant investment needed in suitably strong manacles, but think of the filip to the British Steel industry.
Oh wait, what was left of the British Steel industry was sold off to India. No matter: we should be able to get cheap manacles from there.
Idea Number Two
Snake Plissken. Escape From New York. Any bells ringing? Here’s why John Carpenter should be an official aide to Theresa May, because the man clearly knows a thing or two about how to solve prison crises.
The basic premise: build a very high wall around some shithole city – sorry New York, I know you have cleaned your act up considerably, but, come on, admit it, wasn’t that mostly due to watching Escape From New York and thinking “crikey, we’d better get our shit together”? – then chuck the prisoners in, throw away the key and simply lob a few fish fingers and new offenders over the wall every now and then. It’s cheap, low-maintenance and has the side benefit that the prisoners end up eating each other’s brains, thus diminishing prison numbers through Darwinian selection.
Let’s face it, there is no shortage of contenders among British cities. Several could do the job quite nicely. Indeed, except for the wall, London already seems to be well on the way. All you’d need to do is take the entire prison population there on a day trip, whack up a wall, and Bob’s your uncle. Other strong contenders include Portsmouth, Liverpool, the bits of Bristol that aren’t that posh new shopping mall, and Norwich – largely on the basis that, well, it’s Norwich.
Idea Number Three
There is no such thing as an entirely new idea. We British had already conceived the whole Escape From New York scenario many years ago, except instead of a high wall there was an ocean, and instead of a city there was Australia.
Australia is a good example of the potential end product of an Escape From New York-style approach to prison. Leave them alone for a couple of hundred years, and those that haven’t had their brains eaten survive to produce a generation of pretty much rehabilitated individuals. Not only that, but they are passingly good at cricket, can brew a fine white Chardonnay, and could almost be described as civilised. Granted you wouldn’t invite one to a dinner party, but if you ever ran out of dentists there’d be a ready-made solution.
I appreciate that the world is a smaller place these days than it was when Botany Bay was a mewling pup of an idea, but surely there must be some island, somewhere, where our prisoners could be taken to fend for themselves? What about Sark? No one is entirely sure where that is, or, indeed, if it really exists; surely someone could be paid to investigate and report back?
Idea Number Four
Arnold Schwarzenegger. Game shows. Death Matches. Big Brother. TV ratings.
Join the dots, folks. The Running Man may have been one of the most prescient things Stephen King ever wrote. Prison as entertainment, wired up to CCTV in every cell and broadcast to a waiting nation:
“It’s Day Four in The Big Brother Nick, and the top question is: will Mad Dog Murphy eat crooked accountant Marvin’s brains? Vote now to let Mad Dog have the cleaver. Text us if you want to save Marvin.”
Okay. I hope I’ve started the ball rolling. Let’s hear those ideas folks. Remember, by leaving a comment you may be saving some idiot civil servant from a fate worse than work.
You can certainly count on Captain Limey to come up with some creative ideas when the chips are down! Love all the suggestions and I’m impressed with the speed which you turned them out!
Three more ideas off the top of my head are:
1. Throw more police at the problem (in contrast to current policy). Back them up with knee-jerk laws that legislate such wacky things as you get 30 days for dropping a doughnut in a basket by a canal. I believe that our American cousins had lots of these types of laws in their fledgling days, and we’ve certainly had to endure them (the laws I mean, not the Americans) over the last decade-and-a-half.
The natural extrapolation of this is to turn ourselves into a police state, and possibly a 1984-type situation, but at least we’d have order.
2. Install a dictator. This could even be combined with the previous suggestion, but it usually involves several levels of ‘hidden’ policing – normal police, secret police, super-secret police, the army, the secret army, the super-secret-elite-bodyguards-that-carry-out-covert-assassinations, informants, secret-informants, spies and so on. Er, this sounds a bit like our current set-up I know, but I assure you there must be some differences. I for one would back Captain Limey if he wanted to stage a coup.
3. If Society is broken, let’s rewind Society to the point where we think we started to go wrong. We can then proceed from there in an orderly fashion. Some might say we only need to go back to the 1950s and proceed from there, but this time skipping the drug-fuelled decadent 1960s. Some might want to go back a bit further, to the war years and the fighting spirit that held the country together (although personally, after seeing Boris Johnson marching through London holding an upturned broom, I would keep my finger on the rewind button).
Perhaps we go back to the 1910s, in the period before giving women the vote? Was that the start of our troubles? “Of course not” I hear everyone shout in unison. So let’s swiftly roll backwards, but how far back? Before the industrial revolution? I certainly think technology has got a lot to answer for. I wonder if pioneers such as Henry Cort, James Watt and Richard Arkwright could have guessed that their technological innovations would set in motion a chain of events which has culminated in a youth coveting a flat-screen TV so much that he’s prepared to wreck lives in order to obtain it. Anyway, you get the point.
Any other suggestions I’ve got are purely knee-jerk, and involve me dressing up as Rambo and getting fully tooled-up to tackle the mobs head-on.
As usual, Bear, you excel. I think we should rewind to the bit where the Luddites lost 4 – 0 on penalties and everyone started taking scientists seriously. If no one had invented the television, so much of modern life could have been prevented.
I completely agree. The celebrity culture we currently endure would be wiped out in one beautiful master stroke. We’d be left ot entertain ourselves. We could visit and care about our neighbours; we could frequent the local inns and talk to and play games with our families. Maybe even read the odd book or two. Unfortunately I fear it’s a bit too revolutionary for modern tastes.