20 June 2007

The UK Prison System 1166-2007

The UK Prison System has today slopped out for the last time following the news that 25,000 prisoners serving up to four years have received a Get Out of Jail Free (well, 18 days early) card from Justice Secretary, Lord Falconer, in a desperate move to provide 1,500 cells for more serious and dangerous criminals (none of whom, sadly, are believed to be members of the Government).

Before 1166 jails had existed in an ad hoc and unregulated fashion, the prison population kept low by the simple method of sending offenders to the gallows, chopping block or Iron Maiden (or, even worse, Metallica) for such serious crimes as being a peasant in a built-up area or looking at the King’s deer in a suspicious manner. When woolly liberal Henry II acceded to the throne, however, he ordered jails built in every county to hold those awaiting trial or convicted of non-capital offences such as whistling in the fields or smiling in church, and The UK Prison System born.

Thanks to the constant intervention and reforms of bleeding heart liberals the prison population grew steadily so that, by the 18th century, Captain Cook was dispatched to find an island big enough and far enough away to cope with the increasing number of uppity agricultural workers daring to withhold their labour for a fair day’s pay. On his discovery of Australia, Britain's lawmakers boasted that they had at last discovered a land where the country's ne'er-do-wells could inflict no more harm upon the British people, a boast in which they sadly failed to anticipate the subsequent creation of Neighbours.

Though social reformers in the 19th century campaigned for a penal system which reformed rather than punished, many inmates were still being sent to prison ships or filthy and overcrowded jails where they were not only deprived of their liberty but also expected to pay for the privilege – a system which would be condemned by later, reforming Home Secretaries ... and hailed as "the good old days" by their successors Michael Howard, David Blunkett and John Reid.

Indeed it was thanks to the enlightened policies of ministers such as these last three (and the fat one with the big ears… what was his name…?) that by the beginning of the 21st century Britain’s streets were safe once more - just about anyone who might consider walking down them having been locked up. As the Labour government presided over a 33% increase in the prison population, due in part to the government's desire to detain people without trial for looking at Tony Blair in a suspicious manner – The UK Prison System began to complain increasingly of ill-health and a constant feeling of being over-full and constipated. With The System bunged up, prisoners increasingly found themselves held in court cells, police cells, holiday chalets and B & Bs – in fact anywhere where a small, confined room costs an arm and a leg and a knife-fight might break out over breakfast or someone taking too long in the shower.

With The UK Prison System claiming to be completely full and unable to take another prisoner - even a wafer thin one - it was soon clear to everyone that it could not continue much longer. Even Gordon Brown's pledge of an extra 8,000 prison places by 2012 was to prove too little too late, when it was pointed out that number would be barely be enough to cover those expected to be convicted of illegally supplying steroids for the 2012 Olympics. Overstuffed and underfunded, The UK Prison System burst open and vomited forth thousands of prisoners onto the streets.

The UK Prison System will be buried at sea in a Prison Hulk. It is survived by a penal system that believes the best way to stop people committing crime is to lock them up with hardened criminals for 22-hours-a-day in tiny rooms with an amazingly good supply of hard drugs and by detention without trial, new stop and search powers, talking CCTV cameras, John Reid, Lord Falconer, Cash-for-Honours, BAE corruption allegations and Tony Blair.


Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Haha! Brill yet again, Dodo and you have yet again made my evening! I'm going to go and cook now, whilst giggling at the thought of Henry 11 as a "woolly liberal". It's all his fault, then! There's a lot of truth in your last paragraph, but you don't need me to tell you that!

The As A Dodo Team said...

Thanks WCL!

Ruthie said...

I, too, loved the last paragraph.