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Saturday, December 01, 2007 

Scum-watch: Prison ship obsession rises again.

Doesn't it look just so inviting?

If the Sun were a person, its turn on and offs would be intriguing. Tits would obviously be at the very zenith of its sexual fantasies, while evil paedophiles, the scourge of modern life, would be something the person would focus their hatred on, even while secretly glancing at photographs of a 12-year-old model wearing only a bikini. Less conventionally, one of our imaginary Sun person's greatest desires, resulting in numerous rushes of blood to the head, so to speak, is for villains to be caged aboard floating fortresses. It's a continuing obsession, and one which the Scum is again cheering about today:

A PRISON ship is set to ease overcrowding in Britain’s jails in the New Year in a victory for The Sun.

The move comes as the prison population this week soared to 81,455 - leaving just NINE places in our cells.

Justice Secretary Jack Straw is in talks with the Dutch government to secure one of their floating prisons.

Officials have been sent to the Netherlands to get a high-security vessel that can hold up to 200 lags.

In actuality, a prison ship will do nothing whatsoever to ease overcrowding, especially one that can only cater for 200 "lags". As the current prison population statistics show, 177 prisoners are currently being held in police cells. Even with 200 extra places, that would mean that courts could sentence 23 extra to imprisonment on top of the expected daily churn in and out of the prison system before it would again be thoroughly overloaded. The current level of overcrowding is quite simply unsustainable, as politicians not playing to galleries more than know. None of them however have the courage to raise their head above the parapet and say openly that less people need to be sent to prison: the level of opprobrium would be far too great, despite the fact that overcrowding only makes rehabilitation even more difficult, leading to the recidivism rate increasing exponentially, to further tabloid outrage. It's a vicious circle which no politician is prepared to break, through pure cowardice. It's also worth pointing out that the Sun also breathlessly announced back at the end of September that Straw was deciding which of three vessels to chose as the new prison ship, and surprise surprise, nothing more was heard of it until up to this latest wheeze.

All of this is despite the government's early release scheme, which the Sun also covers. Despite 11,000 "crooks" being released up to 18 days early, the prison system is now currently only 9 places away from complete capacity. The Tories said that it would mean 25,000 being released early this year, while also opposing it completely, which if they had been in power and had done might well have led to even the extra police cells being filled, but being in opposition means you can get away with such disingenuous playing to the crowd. The numbers that have apparently re-offended after being released early are surprisingly low, if anything, especially considering that those released were given £45 on being freed that in some cases was expected to last a month, while some were given nothing at all.

The Sun's leader is almost orgasmic at the news that a boat has been found to stow criminals on:

SHIP, ship hooray!

The last time this combination of words was used in the Scum it was on the front page, overjoyed at the suicide of Harold Shipman. How very appropriate.

Finally, Gordon Brown and Jack Straw have found us a prison ship.

It can’t sail into harbour soon enough.

Our prisons are bursting at the seams.

Which of course has nothing to do with the Sun's demands for an end to "soft" sentences and for never ending crackdowns against yobs, gangs and almost every offence and grouping you can think of. The leader but one above this is advocating such a campaign against "underage boozing" which names everyone responsible except for parents. Overage boozing where the editor of a tabloid newspaper gets drunk and smacks her husband (now ex) is curiously not worthy of crusading against.

Rapists, killers and paedophiles have been freed early to make space.

Really? Is that why, err, the Sun's own report on the 11,000 released early only mentions 4 sex offenders who've been let out 18 days early and nothing about any murderers whatsoever? This wouldn't be another huge lie in a Sun editorial, surely not.

Now it seems a 200-cell Dutch barge is heading our way.

It’s a good start, Mr Brown.

But it’s only a start.

Well yes. If things get any worse, he'll be needing to make sure there are cells ready to take him and most of the cabinet. One already seems to have Peter Watt's name on it.

The irony of the Sun's unhinged joy at a prison ship being found is that the leader above it is on Gillian Gibbons "suffering in captivity", and few if any would disagree with that. There is no such sympathy for the mentally ill and drug addicted that will find themselves making up the population of the new prison ship. If it's anything like the old one, then the inmates can look forward to it being "unacceptably cramped and claustrophobic", with "no access to fresh air", "poor healthcare facilities" and with jobs "very limited". Still, they're all villains, aren't they?

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