HM Prison and Holiday Inn

April 25, 2008 at 3:38 pm | Posted in British Politics, Prison Reform, The Daily Wail | 2 Comments
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We live in testing times. Banks are breaking under the burden of bad debt, food prices are rising and fuel costs are soaring. With our bulging overdrafts, credit cards and mortgages, we all have to be a little more careful with our spending – give up on some of life’s luxuries and make sacrifices we never would’ve considered.

But what if there was another way? What if you could quit your job, sell your house and live a life of luxury at the expense of other people? What if you could reside for years in spacious, well-furnished accommodation complete with kindly guards to protect you 24/7? If this life of stress-free leisure appeals, you’ll be pleased to hear there’s an organisation offering all this and more: Her Majesty’s Prison Service (and Holiday Inn).

Or at least that would be the impression you make upon reading today’s stories in the Mail and Express on the ‘cushy life’ inmates enjoy in our nation’s jails. According to Glyn Travis, assistant general secretary of the Prison Officer’s Association, “prisoners receive a wage for being in prison”:

“They receive a bed, a TV in all cells, Sky television in most areas for recreational use, free telephones, breakfast in bed on many occasions, cash bonuses for good behaviour, and prison staff are forced to deal with them in such a subservient way it’s ridiculous.”

Fantastic! Who do I have to kill to get myself some of that?! So where, I hear you ask, did Travis make these startling claims? Was it on Radio 4 or Newsnight, a Commons committee or a journal on penal reform? Ermm, not quite:

He told Talk Sport radio that taxpayers would be “appalled” if they knew of the conditions enjoyed by criminals, including Britain’s most notorious rapists, murderers and paedophiles.

He told Talk Sport! A radio station where talking is indeed a sport and one where whoever barfs the most bigoted, homophobic, right-wing bile is cherished as a champion. A radio station which statistics would probably show to be the most listened-to among that hate-filled demographic of rapists, murderers and paedophiles who Travis accuses of living the high life. A radio station which is barely qualified to debate whether Gerrard or Lampard should fill the England midfield, let alone the issue of prison reform. Talk about preaching to the converted – it’s like having the Daily Express read to you every minute of the damned day.

For the papers who frontpaged this rant it offered the perfect chance to practice the kind of low-cost, high-reward Churnalism for which they’re famed. No need for an expensive investigation into prison conditions or to waste time verifying the accuracy of Travis’ remarks; just cut & paste the transcript, embroider with some catchy phrases like “jails so cushy that criminals are trying to break IN”, add a few politicians’ press statements and ta-da! One sensationalised news story ready-made to wrap tomorrow’s fish ‘n chips in.

Still, you shouldn’t see these papers as too one-sided in their coverage. You see, right at the end of the story, just when most of their readers have turned over to the next item of barely-concealed rage masquerading as news, they quietly include this statement which makes Travis’ claims seem somewhat, errm… exaggerated:

The Prison Service confirmed that drugs had been smuggled into Everthorpe Prison by an outside dealer, but said immediate action was taken and prisoners were never in a position to escape. A spokesman insisted inmates are not given “breakfast in bed”, but are handed a “breakfast pack” to eat in their cells, or a hot breakfast to take back to their cells.

Television in cells is an earned privilege which can be removed, she added, and “no public-sector prisons” have Sky TV in cells. She confirmed that the Incentives and Earned Privileges scheme means well-behaved inmates can earn extra visits, higher rates of pay for work, in-cell television and access to private cash.

She said the IEP scheme was designed “to ensure good order and control in prisons” and to encourage prisoners to take part in rehabilitation work.

Two sides to the story, then. But I bet you a whole week’s worth of breakfasts-in-bed that not too many of their readers made it that far…

Photo of HM Prison (and Holiday Inn) Dartmoor by Flickr user leguan001 (Creative Commons)

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2 Comments »

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  1. […] reason I’m writing about ‘Cushygate‘ in two separate posts is that whilst there’s always fun to be had at the expense of […]

  2. […] 22, 2008 by Neil Just another day in the cushy life at Her Majesty’s Holiday Inn: Some prisoners are living and sleeping in toilets because of jail overcrowding, a report says. HM […]


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