web analytics

Watching a train crash

By ATWadmin On December 31st, 2006

More damning evidence of the government’s contempt for the public’s safety is revealed in this report from the Observer newspaper. Due to prison overcrowding, hundreds of prisoners classed as “high risk”, including murderers and paedophiles have been moved to open prisons, where the only thing keeping them inside is their own inclination. The pleas of prison governors, probation staff and in one case mentioned of the prisoner himself make no impression on our criminally negligent Home Office.

“Watching this government’s handling of the prison service is like watching a train crash,” according to Edward Garnier, the Tory home affairs spokesman.  In recent years, train company executives have had to answer charges of “corporate manslaughter” over train crashes. Should not the Home Office kaisers similarly be held to account for their actions and inactions?  I won’t hold my breath.


6 Responses to “Watching a train crash”

  1. I read this earlier today. Here’s two modest proposals for prison policy:

    1. Put protection of the public FIRST. If this means building more prisons, then build them, but don’t let dangerous criminals out before their sentence is served in full.

    2. Stop treating drug addicts (who account for at least half the prison population) as criminals. Why not treat them as addicts and wean them off their drug? If this means prescribing heroin then prescribe it. If this means breaching an international convention, then breach it.

  2. Peter,

    I agree with point 1, but I don’t with point 2, as I think there are very few people in jail simply for their drug addiction. A lot of drug addicts are in jail, but for other crimes. Although they may say "I only robbed all those people cos I needed a fix, man" that doesn’t mean a lot. They should get cold turkey. It won’t kill them, it’ll do them some good. These people most often started their criminal activity prior to getting themselves hooked to drugs, the drugs being a symptom of their criminal mentality rather than the other way around.

    I’m not a hardline anti-drug person, generally concurring with Milton Friedman, amongst others, that it’s your body, do what you like. What I do not accept is that drug addiction is an excuse for committing crimes such as robbery. If someone wants to drug themselves to oblivion that’s one thing. When they put a knife to my throat looking for contributions they have crossed a line.

  3. Richard
    I agree that addiction cannot be an excuse for crime. But the cycle of addiction and crime could be broken if heroin was prescribed. At the same time a major criminal industry would be broken.

    This may not be a panacea (for example crack-cocaine would remain illegal) but I think there should be a grown-up debate about drugs policy rather than bowing to tabloid hysteria which seeks to make it taboo to even discuss the subject. The recent down-grading of cannabis is an example.

  4. Richard,

    "These people most often started their criminal activity prior to getting themselves hooked to drugs, the drugs being a symptom of their criminal mentality rather than the other way around."

    An interesting point if true. Any evidence?

  5. From what I’ve seen, the opposite is true: people become criminals after becoming addicted to drugs because they need money to fund their addiction.

  6. Frank,

    if you care to, read Theodore Dalrymple’s book "Romancing Opiates". You may not share the man’s views, but he bases what he says on a wealth of experience as a prison doctor and working in inner city hospitals, as well as other pieces of research. It’s very interesting, honestly!


    the relationship between drugs and crime is no doubt tangled, but there are many thousands of drug users, including no doubt heroin users who fund their usage without recourse to property crime. These people are hidden from view, and so it seems that almost all junkies are out robbing, but I think this is a distortion. A heroin user up in front of the judge for other crimes knows that giving a sob story is in his interest. Blaming his addiction is a way of avoiding responsibility.


    I simply don’t believe handing out heroin will end the "cycle of addiction and crime". That heroin will probably end up on the streets. The cycle of crime will not end because judges consider six months in jail a fitting punishment for a string of burglaries.