When the Punishment Fits the Crime

January 11, 2011

Multiple Pages
When the Punishment Fits the Crime

My object all sublime
I shall achieve in time—
To let the punishment fit the crime—
The punishment fit the crime.

Was that a New Year’s resolution of Prisons Minister Crispin Blunt I was quoting?

Actually, they were lines from Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Mikado, in which my godson was to play the part of The Lord High Executioner that evening.

I was leafing through the program while we circled in preparation for landing at Farnham following our visit to Bellzone, a mining project in Guinea, West Africa.

Our steward said that he was surprised by the delay, as air traffic had earlier been reported light.

Our trip to Guinea had been interesting, and we had concentrated our time visiting the iron ore project in Simandou and the bauxite resources to the north of Kalia as well as the rail and port facilities.

It was just before lunch on the final day that a respectable-looking middle-aged gentleman had thrust a pamphlet into my hand and persuaded me to read it.

The pamphlet outlined the story of missionary pastor Michel Loua of Jacksonville, Texas, a convert to Christianity who unfortunately got caught up in the politics of Guinea’s presidential election. He had been thrown into one of the country’s prisons and on the night of November 14th was tortured, shot through the heart, and had his body mutilated. It was reported that to enhance his own leadership, Guinea’s president had sent soldiers to the prison to offer Michel Loua as a human sacrifice.

“If they were allowed, they would book their prison beds ahead and not even wait to commit whatever crime it takes to earn a place.”

Inside the pamphlet were copies of photographs portraying conditions in the prison. They were deeply shocking.

I dug into my briefcase to find them, and just as I laid hands on them the steward reappeared in the aisle.

“If you look out of the window on the left-hand side, you will see a plume of smoke.”

He was right. Near to the coast a thin smoke column drifted gently up into the sky.

What we were witnessing—and the reason for our delay—were the last vestiges of the New Year’s riot at Ford Open Prison.

What a contrast from Guinea’s barbaric conditions!

Was it not for the situation’s seriousness, what happened at Ford could easily be taken for a joke.

Ford is an Adult Male/Category D prison, capable of housing over 550 men and operated by Her Majesty’s Prison Service.

The prison’s governor is lesbian Sharon Williams, who separated from her husband to live with one of her officers, an unsavory-looking creature named Jackie Jefcut. Today’s prison story is a scriptwriter’s dream. Turn Ford into a soap opera, and EastEnders would never get a look in.

Lesbian Sharon Williams answers directly to Prisons Minister Crispin Jeremy Rupert Blunt, Member of Parliament for Reigate, formerly an officer in the 13th/18th Hussars who left his longsuffering wife Victoria to “come to terms with his homosexuality,” more commonly termed “coming out of the closet.”

Crispin Blunt in turn answers to Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke, who—surprise, surprise—doesn’t think jail really works and would prefer to see community-service sentences handed out instead.

From what we know of places such as Ford, the inmates would likely oppose Mr. Clarke’s idiotic ideas. It is not easy to find a place to live that boasts gymnasiums and snooker halls; somewhere which has television, radio, and newspapers; a place which offers five-choice menus which must contain one hot, one cold, one vegetarian, one dairy-free, and one halal option to meet prisoners’ diverse cultural and nutritional needs. A place with easy access to alcohol and drugs. (Forty empty vodka and brandy bottles were found at Ford after the riot as well as assorted stashes of heroin and cocaine.) No wonder half the world would give its right arm to move to Britain. If they were allowed, they would book their prison beds ahead and not even wait to commit whatever crime it takes to earn a place. By way of greeting, new arrivals are given a welcome pack containing tea, coffee, sweets, and almost unbelievably—cigarettes! (Try lighting up a cigarette in any other gentleman’s club and you would probably be asked to resign.) If you happen to be an addict, you are also given hot chocolate to ensure a good night’s sleep. Oh, and thanks to Mr. Blunt and in order to avoid “fruit riots,” prisoners can expect to be served only perfectly sized and shaped apples. Good God!

It’s easy to find illegal mobile phones on which to contact your dealer. From time to time the inmates stage comedy workshops and vampire fancy-dress parties or, according to Lord Brocket, bring girls in from outside for special entertainment.

Whereas standards are loose regarding prisoners, a strict eye is kept on the staff to ensure they behave. In July 2010 when burgers containing pork were accidentally served to some of the Muslim inmates, managers of Ford Open Prison were made to apologize.

It is all intolerable nonsense.

The idea that two prison officers and four support staff were left in charge of 496 prisoners over New Year is utterly derisible. How would it be if instead of wasting public money making futile inquiries into Tony Blair’s lies on Iraq, we were to spend some of it building new prisons and training prison warders to administer them?

Ford’s drink-fueled extravaganza, for that is what it amounted to, was best summed up by the POA deputy general secretary as like “a scene out of Benny Hill,” with the helpless few pursuing the prisoners with breathalyzer kits in vain attempts at who knows what. It seems fitting that at the time the riot was reported to Crispin Blunt, he was happily enjoying himself at a party thrown by the dwarfish leader and Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow.

On the financial front, Bellzone has achieved significant milestones in the short time since listing. The iron ore market is strong globally. Bellzone’s assets are strategic to Guinea, and Bellzone has demonstrated effectively that it can work with almost any regime.

Today the price stands at 84p, and we forecast a medium-term target of 200p.

I am also delighted to report that Kenmare Resources, tipped by Takimag Sharewatch in September at 19p, continues to rise and at close of business on January 6th, 2011 stood at 32.15p—an increase of 69.2%.

Time perhaps to get behind the bars!

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