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Wednesday, June 04, 2008 

Scum-watch: Cushy prisons, yet more Facebook bashing, and 42 days nonsense.

Plenty to get through today, starting with the familiar Sun refrain that the prisons are all holiday camps, this time on the back of data released by the Ministry of Justice:

PRISONS are so cushy that 37,000 lags have refused early release – and 42 others tried to break IN, it emerged yesterday.

The Sun doesn't bother to mention that this is over the last 7 years for another couple of paragraphs.

They showed that annually thousands of inmates would rather stay inside than take Home Detention Curfew.

It's worth linking to exactly what was asked, which TheyWorkForYou provides here. Nick Herbert didn't just ask about those who actually opted-out, but also those that didn't bother to apply, which means there might be plenty that forgot to do so that also make up the figures.

In any case, 37,000 prisoners not applying/opting-out over 7 years obviously doesn't instantly mean that those who turned out down are preferring to stay in prison because it's so wonderful inside. Some prisoners will obviously prefer to serve out their time than be subject to a 7pm to 7am curfew while electronically tagged, especially if it means that they can't work a night job as a result, if they have one to go out to. Some will turn it out down because they don't actually have a home to go to, or one where the other occupants will agree to the private contractor installing the necessary equipment, while others might prefer to stay in prison than go and live for the time period in a hostel. As Straw also points out, some probably don't bother applying because they don't think that they'll pass the risk assessment. Indeed, it's instructive that the Sun nor the Times bothered to publish the breakdown of the figures over the years, possibly because it shows that the prisons can't be that cushy, because the numbers opting-out/not applying has fell from a high of 7,800 in 2001 to 3,200 in 2006. This makes sense when you consider that the prisons are now hopelessly overcrowded, and that surprisingly, that makes them rather less pleasant places to be, 3 meals a day, "satellite TV and cheap drugs", as the Sun puts it, or not.

And there were 26 incidents of break-ins – including one at a high security jail and 25 at open prisons. Ladders were used by 13 and three climbed walls. Shadow justice secretary Nick Herbert last night blasted the prison crisis as a “farce”.

These figures are similarly making a mountain out of a molehill, with an average of just 4 attempted break-ins a year, the 42 coming from the number of individuals involved in each incident. The clue as to how easy it is to break-in, or break-out from an open prison is in the word "open"; a fair majority of the prisoners in them are being prepared for release, and have day jobs outside the walls as a result, or are ranked as the lowest risk prisoners were they to go on the run. It's little surprise that some drug dealers might think they'd get business in open prisons and think breaking in is worth a go, but by far the biggest source of drugs in prison is, *shock*, corrupt screws.

It's rather strange therefore that the Sun is also bigging up the CBI's condemnation of current prison policy, which is quite clearly not in the slightest supporting the ever increasing building and filling of new prisons, something dearly close to the Sun's heart:

The Confederation of British Industry will today tell the Government that reoffending rates are a “colossal failure”. Dr Neil Bentley of the CBI will say lack of rehabilitation means jail is just a “hugely expensive bed and breakfast”.

Two in three ex-inmates commit another crime in two years – rising to three out of four young lags.

A 40 per cent hike in spending has had no effect on reoffending in the last ten years, the CBI will say.


This is for the reason that it is incredibly difficult to rehabilitate prisoners in prison in the first place, but when they're full to bursting as they currently are, something the Sun has had no small part in ensuring thanks to its constant urging of crackdowns on law and order, it's close to impossible. This was reflected in the figures released at the weekend that showed that prisons were lying about the time that inmates had outside their cells, which in some was less than 2 hours out of 24.

Onward to yet another Facebook-bashing exercise while ignoring that the study also involves MurdochSpace users:

Facebook users are ‘shirkers’

SOCIAL networking websites have taken over from fag breaks as the bane of bosses’ lives, a new poll shows.

Four in ten managers say they now find that workers addicted to sites like Facebook and online shops are the biggest office time-wasters.


Ah, so MySpace users aren't shirkers. They're just morons.

Meanwhile, it looks like the Sun is starting to step up the pressure on those opposing 42 day detention, just as it did prior to the 90-day vote, after which it denounced those who voted against as "traitors":

ANTI-TERROR cops and security chiefs have rallied around Gordon Brown’s bid to give police 42 days to quiz terror suspects.

The PM, who is battling a Labour rebellion over it, got the boost ahead of next Wednesday’s Commons vote.


Why the Sun is using the plural is beyond me: for "cops" read ex-cop Peter Clarke, dealt with yesterday and for "security chief" read ex-security chief, Richard Dearlove, also known as a liar, involved up to his neck in the dodgy dossier and a signatory to the Henry Jackson Society:

Former MI6 chief Sir Richard Dearlove wrote: “If 42 days is not adopted, regret it we will.”

He's also apparently turned into Yoda.

The PM’s bid has also won the backing of Metropolitan Police chief Sir Ian Blair – and top TORY MP Ann Widdecombe.

Err, Blair actually hasn't commented recently at all on 42 days of late: the Sun is being deliberately misleading by claiming that he's only now backed it. How Widdecombe can also be described as "top" when she's long left the shadow cabinet and is stepping down at the next election is also stretching credibility, and also not mentioned is the fact that Widdecombe came very close to supporting 90 days last time round, instead abstaining on the vote. That she supports 42, being one of the most authoritarian right-wing figures in parliament, is hardly surprising.

Then there's this flagrant piece of either deliberate bullshit or getting completely the wrong end of the stick:

In one case, police had to study 270 computers, 2,000 discs and 8,224 exhibits in eight countries to identify a SUSPECT.

Err, I think you'll find that they studied that number of computers etc in pursuit of evidence, not just to identify a suspect. It's also interesting how almost all of the commenters on the article are opposed, which is a surprise considering how they'll usually support absolutely anything on crime or terrorism on MySun. Still, for those wavering, the Sun helpful points out just how vital the bill is in by headlining the Scum's political editor's column thusly:

New Bill will help defeat al-Qaeda evil

The world's worst columnist also valiantly picks up the theme:

Cameron must choose his side

DAVID BLUNKETT - Sun Columnist

ON this very day 167 years ago a man who was soon to become a Conservative Prime Minister said: "The duty of an Opposition is, very simply, to oppose everything and propose nothing."

Which just goes to show that nothing much changes with the Tories, even from one century to the next.

Except the Tories supported Blair over "trust schools" rather than opposing it, for just one example.

Labour’s present doldrums have allowed Cameron to avoid being nailed for his unwillingness to face the biggest issue that can confront a Government — protecting the safety and wellbeing of the nation’s citizens.

Except that the Conservatives also opposed 90 days, when things might have been bad for Labour, but not as bad as they are now. Still, keep going David.

After all the compromises, is Mr Cameron, with his party in tow, still prepared to put the civil liberties of suspected terrorists before the greatest liberties of all — the life, safety and freedom of everyone in our country?

No Mr Blunkett, it's not the civil liberties of suspected terrorists he's prepared to put before the "greatest liberties of all"; they are the civil liberties of everyone. Unless you haven't noticed, and during your tenure you did try your best, considering you locked up foreign "terrorist suspects" without charge in Belmarsh for years, everyone is innocent until proven guilty. There is no such thing as a "suspected terrorist", a horrible piece of Unspeak.

The most shameless thing about this piece is it's the government that are behaving like "junior common room debaters", as Blunkett puts it. They can't possibly win without diluting the power down to almost nothing, yet it's still objectionable because 42 days detention without charge is simply unacceptable, and no amount of judicial oversight or safeguards will change that. The Conservatives have been completely consistent from the beginning, opposing 90 days, 56 days and now 42 days, and quite rightly so. It may well be that this is a tactic to put further pressure on the government, and I don't doubt for a moment that the Conservatives, should they win the next election, might well do a complete u-turn, but this is the government in the wrong, not the opposition. They're the ones that are protecting our liberties from those who want to destroy them, and that includes both the government and the "terrorists" themselves.

The Sun's leader echoes the exact same arguments (yes, I realise they're rhetorical questions but humour me):

ARE the Tories serious about Britain’s security?

No, they want us all to be blown to pieces.

Do they think security chiefs exaggerate the complex threat from extremists?

Probably not, but even if they did they wouldn't necessarily be wrong to think so.

The question needs addressing as Tory leader David Cameron tries to vote down the 42-day detention of terror suspects.

Intelligence experts say thousands of fanatics are plotting murder.


And? They're still going to be plotting murder whether there's 42 days or not.

They use sophisticated technology and concealment techniques.

Oh yeah, like the evil terrorist that kept an explosives manual under his bed in a sealed box that the Sun recently stalked.

Evidence may spread across several continents and many languages.

To be serious for half a second, then give the police more resources. Don't extend the time just so they don't have to rush so much.

Civil liberties are important. But if there is one person who should persuade the Tories, it is ex-Met chief Peter Clarke.

Mr Clarke is no scaremonger. He is the reassuring voice of sober authority.

If he says the terror threat is “growing in scale and complexity” and 28 days is not enough, Mr Cameron should listen very, very carefully.


This would of course be the same Peter Clarke who said of the ricin plot, where there was no ricin, and even had there been Kamel Bourgass was too stupid to know that it needs to penetrate the skin to have an effect:

"This was a hugely serious plot because what it had the potential to do was to cause real panic, fear, disruption and possibly even death," said Peter Clarke, the head of Scotland Yard's anti-terrorist branch. "This was no more, no less than a plot to poison the public."

I too have the possibility to cause real panic, fear, disruption and even death if I run around outside waving a gun. It just so happens that I don't have a gun, but I still have the potential to do so, even if I haven't got a clue where to get a gun from. That too would be no more no less than a plot to kill the public. Clarke also defended the infamous Forest Gate raid, misleadingly claiming that a report made no criticism of the police's action when it was highly critical, while yesterday he expressed amazement at the politicisation of the debate when the police had done so much to err, politicise it.

Cameron though will have got the message. If the bill is defeated, not only will the spineless and pusillanimous Labour backbenchers get a roasting, so will the Conservatives. All the more reason to continue opposing 42 days and to once again say that it was the Sun wot lost it.

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