Friday, January 26, 2007

Pit Shafts For Paedophiles

I’ve just spent my morning working myself into a sweat at my regular gym here in Bangor. But for once, it wasn’t the exercise that got The Chipster’s oils running. I’d gone about five miles on the treadmill when two of the gym’s regulars arrived and occupied the running machines on either side of me. That’s how I found myself wedged into a conversation about the current crisis in Britain’s prisons.

One of the runners, an ex-miner, began by suggesting that the country should convert many of the unused coal mines in Wales into secure units for sex offenders. He called it his ‘Pit Shafts For Paedophiles Plan’. Both his friend and I were a bit sceptical at first, until the miner carried on and described in great detail how it was cheaper than using the RAF base that John Reid currently proposes. These mines are unused, take up very little surface land, are out of the public gaze, and although they stretch for miles and miles they are already escape-proof. The only complication is that every offender would have to be given a canary but, other than this, he said that it is just about 'a perfect plan'.

Now as you know, the state of Britain’s prisons is something that leaves The Chipster lying awake in bed at night worrying. Not even Gabby’s soft singing is enough to lull me to sleep when my mind flits about considering the problem of incarceration. I don’t know... Perhaps, for some unknown reason, the poor girl’s singing makes me think I’m in prison. But whatever it is, I find myself wondering if we’re not locking up too many people for minor offences and leaving too many dangerous men at large. What even constitutes a minor offence in the eyes of the law?

Not so long ago, a pensioner went to prison for not paying her council tax. I thought it an outrage and volunteered to stage a nude protest outside the prison. Today, I hear a man convicted of downloading 200 images of child pornography has escaped a prison sentence because the judge, John Rogers, QC, said he had to consider instructions passed down to him from the Home Office. To make matters worse, this is a Welsh story. The offender in question is from Penygwdwn in Blaenau Ffestiniog. I think you’ll agree that it’s a terrible condemnation of the penal system and that's the reason I’m now offering to stage a nude protest outside the courthouse.

But The Chipster also wants to pose a hypothetical question.

A town has only one jail cell. A town meeting is called and the people have to vote as to which of the two local criminals is to be sent to prison. They can arrest the local thief, responsible for a spate of burglaries, or the man known to possess a large collection of child pornography. Which would the townsfolk collectively choose to imprison? Which would make the most people feel safe in their beds at night? The man who has committed property theft or the man who in a sense hasn’t committed a crime against a person but whose actions suggest he might well be capable of something far more serious in the future?

Which do the people choose? Where is the greater good served?

And be careful how you answer. Don’t make me stage a nude protest outside your place of work.


Guthrum said...


okyouwin said...

excellent, but how about bunk beds ?
you stay away from our house ,you'll upset the seagulls