Sunday, September 21, 2008

Public Service Announcement

For the benefit of Iain Dale and others.

This is a man using semaphore to send a message. That's what semaphore is for - sending messages.

Of course, it's a bit old fashioned. Nowadays, if I understand what young people have been telling me, you can use one of these:

Telephones are for sending messages too, although you can just chat if you like. It's a bit laborious to chat with semaphore, though I suppose you could if you had strong arms and were feeling exuberant.

But this isn't for sending messages:

It's a prison. P-R-I-S-O-N. People are kept behind bars, lose their jobs, lose contact with their families. Some kill themselves, others just mutilate themselves. Some get raped or bullied repeatedly without any hope of protection from any authorities.

Their families suffer mental health problems and increased poverty. Their kids suffer the same way, become delinquent, more likely to offend. These family members haven't done anything wrong.

Plus, it's a bit dispiriting to be locked in a cell.

Here's the announcement:

Prisons and the criminal law are not mechanisms for sending fucking messages.

We need to lock up some people. We should lock some people up for much longer than we do right now. These people are entirely and exclusively those who do violence to other people's property or persons. And that's it. They do not include drug takers, who if they are harming anyone are harming themselves alone, something they have every right to do.


cabalamat said...

Well said.

Paulie said...

Hmmmm. Mostly with you on that one, and it's damn well put. But I think that your last sentance is a bit broad-brush. If you put people in the nick, you may hurt their families - people who don't deserve to be hurt.

Sometimes, if you leave people who are addicted to drugs (including - and particularly including alcohol) with their families, you do the same undeserving victims a good deal of damage.

I know you don't like nannying, but sometimes, people need nanny to do something for them that they wish they could do for themselves.

Anonymous said...

"...sometimes, people need nanny to do something for them that they wish they could do for themselves."

Ah, the 'it's for their own good' argument. Problem is, who gets to decide that?

Is George Michael mugging old ladies for the price of a rock of crack? I don't think so...

Paulie said...

Fair comment Julia. They'd have to win an election and be obliged to fight another one within a few years.

Of course, I'd prefer it as well if the democratic system concerned was a bit more of an effective representative democracy than ours (more devolved, bicameral and with a weaker core executive) but even the current system is the least worst option on offer.

Peter Risdon said...

Whether people with addictive - or even just bad - personalities need ehlp is one thing. Whether we should use the criminal justice system as an elaborate semaphore system without reference to its foul consequences is another.

I suspect we agree really. Banging someone up because they've harmed someone else, including members of their family, is one thing. Banging them up to send a message is another, entirely different and completely wrong, thing.