Some news makes you wonder – certainly makes me wonder. Prisoners are unhappy and causing trouble. That’s news apparently.
News can be about next door’s Winnie winning £10,000 on a lottery, or the mayor getting arrested or murdered or re-elected. But telling us that prisoners stuffed into packed jails are more violent this year can hardly be news, surely no more than it might be in the least surprising.
|Full house ... Looking at the astonishing increase in prison numbers here, and adding a bit of personal experience. Photo by Carles Rabada on Unsplash|
Today, we learn that there were nearly 34,000 attacks by prisoners last year, up 20% on the previous year. Can that be much of a surprise let alone news?
Wikipedia reports that total UK prison population last year was 83,618, which is .13% of the population.
The bias of justice
In 2018, 79,749 men and 3,869 women were locked away.
Among that vast population were 8,500 former servicemen – an extraordinary 10% of the prison population.
What that says about the British military, or the bias of justice, might be worth investigating.
But look at prisons, justice, and so many strange statistics arise. For instance, between 2002 and 2013, 130% people aged 60 or more went to jail.
When I was remanded in 1999, the prison population numbered around 65,000. When friends collected me in 2007, the population stood at around 85,000.
Does today’s ‘news’ mean that an ever-increasing percentage of the population is turning to crime?
Take this astonishing statistic. ‘The prison population of England and Wales quadrupled in size between 1900 and 2017, with around half of this increase taking place since 1990.’ That comes from a Commons Library briefing.
How can that be? Is it possible that the police are getting so much better at their work? However, given the greatly reduced numbers, that doesn't seems exactly likely.
And might it mean that surviving in Britain has become so much more desperate than at the beginning of last century, or during two world wars?
My reluctant experience
My very reluctant experience blames the appalling nature of our system of justice. I was ambushed, charged, subjected to two years of imprisonment before judgement happened, and then a further six years inside. I feel absolutely certain that the prosecution knew I couldn’t be guilty.
I was 1,100 miles in the Bay of Biscay. Only a few weeks before, my gorgeous yacht eM had been searched very aggressively by St Lucia customs. I really believe that both customs and the prosecution realised I couldn't be guilty, yet 'knew' they could persuade a jury of the opposite, assuming they had the ‘right’ jury.
Somehow they got the right jury. If this is how our justice works, no wonder a huge population languishes behind bars, many, many of whom will have been wrongly convicted.
Forgive me for adding this last paragraph, for noting it yet again. Returning to the cell after sentencing on that deceitful smuggling charge, the radio news revealed that the fellow imprisoned for the Lockerbie bombing, which killed 243 passengers and 16 crew (plus some on the ground), was serving two years less than my 19 years.
Thanks very much for visiting the blogs for my adventure book, Sailing to Purgatory.