You think you’re not in prison now? [boardwalk]

Little Richardjohn – 156th post – 28 Sep 2004 10:49
We put criminals in jail to deprive them of Liberty. The trouble is that for many, liberty seems to mean sitting in a room, with no contact with the outside world, watching the telly. The criminal’s experience of society means that prison is merely a change of location. Which means that society is becoming more like a prison, not the other way around. What is the difference between The Royle Family watching Big Brother and five prisoners in a cell? If anything, there is more of a sense of community in prison than in much of society. If, and it seems to be a small if, all that the criminal classes need from life is a cup of tea, a sofa and a telly, then what’s the difference between liberty and incarceration?
In other words, until life outside becomes less like prison, no-one will be afraid losing their Liberty. This means making prison harsher or making society healthier. Brutalise prisoners as much as we can or try to stop society becoming more like a prison.
Which is the more ambitious project? [reply] [Complain about this post]

re: ‘You think you’re not in prison now Cahen_k – 922nd post – 28 Sep 2004 11:20 Little Richard Even as a child I disliked parties, picnics and holidays. I was happiest sitting with a book and listening to some music in the background. My idea of ‘heaven’ is to stay at home and now in front of the computer. Some tv. So where do I fit in with your concept of a healthy society? [reply]

re: ‘You think you’re not in prison now fairy hedgehog – 71st post – 28 Sep 2004 11:41 Prison would be terrible for me. How can you be healthy if you don’t go out for fresh air & a good look around & some exercise? I walk approximately five miles a day (more at weekends). Every day I walk to the top of a hill where I get a magnificent view over two towns & four villages. I can see for miles and miles and miles & it is wonderful Then I walk back home through woods and fields, looking at the change in seasons as the fields are ploughed or crops grow, and watching out for the wildflowers & fungi. If I were to be kept within the confines of one building for any length of time I would be like one of those elephants in bad zoos, swaying with misery. Books, computers and knitting are important to me, but so are my daily walks.

re: ‘You think you’re not in prison now Little Richardjohn – 158th post – 28 Sep 2004 12:21 Maybe you missed out on all the recent hoo ha about obesity and sedentary lifestyles and in general sitting at home watching too much TELLY. You are not good criminal material. You’ve too much to live for. THAT is my point. We’re not worried about you. But for large numbers of people, your sort of life doesn’t happen. And these are the people who tend to commit crime. What else is there for them?
re: ‘You think you’re not in prison now fairy hedgehog – 72nd post – 28 Sep 2004 12:28 Should we have a sort of ‘anti-prison’ then? Instead of locking them in, lock them out. Sentenced to do a spot of camping and physical outdoor exercise without the benefits of indoor plumbing and electricity. Do you think that would bring about a bit of rethinking by the anti-convicts?

re: ‘You think you’re not in prison now Little Richardjohn – 159th post – 28 Sep 2004 13:28 It’s about how we define Liberty. We are all limited by something. Prisons deprive you of the liberty of movement, but not much else. In the days before television, this was all that mattered. Now, where you are allowed to go is less important than who you are allowed to communicate with or receive information from.
So a prisoner with media access is as free as a person who is unable to leave their home – give or take a few home comforts. And if this quality of life is what he is used to, he won’t feel like he’s being punished at all. It may even give him his first taste of belonging to a community of some sort.
So what sort of society is it in which the prison experience is not very different from being at home? Are’nt we setting our sights a little low?
re: ‘You think you’re not in prison now mc viperess – 1st post – 28 Sep

2004 14:01 Hi LR, Prison not only deprives you of liberty of movement but also takes your choices away from you which isn’t a good thing either. It takes you away from the familiarity of your environment & puts you in a much more structured, controlled & much more man-made environment. You have to behave in order to get what us on the outside take for granted; a cuppa when you feel like it,( unless you’re put in the kitchen) a cuddle from your children/wife/husband & family & friends(this has to be booked in advance & many prisons do not allow any form of physical contact between the prisoner & the visitor/s), having a lie in or even walking to the local shops. Yes, & if you really behave then you get the ‘dreaded’ telly in your cell.
Prisoners get visiting orders to send to their loved ones so that they can in turn communicate with them in a visiting area. You get plenty of time to reflect & write to your loved ones who in turn will write back with news.
Unfortunately there are many people who have grown up in care, secure units & prisons who become institutionalised & does give the person his sense of belonging only in an institution. That has become his community.
Prison is totally different than being at home; ask any prisoner. Who is setting their sights low? Have you been in prison? You’ve got a good way with words by the way!

re: ‘You think you’re not in prison now Little Richardjohn – 160th post – 28 Sep 2004 14:37 If prison is as terrible as you say – and I’m not saying it isn’t – then why isn’t it working? Surely that’s what all the fuss is about. I’m just trying to make the point that liberty means something very different now from what it did when the Victorians formalised the prison system. And to be true to its punitive agenda, it has to deny those aspects of the outside world which make a difference. All the things you value are the things which – almost by definition, mean little to a person prepared to rob a bank with a gun. And the point about what we call freedom is that it can often, for many people, be as limiting an experience as prison. Evolution didn’t spend millions of years producing us so that we could spend most of our lives working in Asda and watching the telly. Criminals are just people who realise that life is for living but are too stupid or brutalised to find a way of feeling fulfilled without hurting someone else in the process.

re: ‘You think you’re not in prison now Don Glen – 1684th post – 28 Sep 2004 15:38 But there is one inescapable logic in prison sentences; and that is that while they are inside, they are no longer committing further crimes outside. Reserve prison for repeat offenders if you like (with the obvious exceptions), but prison WORKS. And it works because it protects society from the leaches who in so many cases make the lives of the decent, and the honest, miserable. No-one is obliged to commit crime in order to survive. It is a life choice. And if they decide on a life of crime, then we should decide on locking them up for however long it takes for them to see the error of their ways.

re: ‘You think you’re not in prison now Little Richardjohn – 161st post – 28 Sep 2004 18:06 Fair enough. But I don’t see how a longer sentence is more of a deprivation of liberty than a short one if the experience of incarceration is largely the same as being at home in front of the tv. And I don’t see how prison can be a deterrent if your life already seems like one. And there are people are driven to commit crime to survive. There always have been. And it isn’t about survival anyway, it’s about feeling alive. About having an identity in a society which demands facelessness. It’s an industry driven by much the same fuel as Pop Idol. And as we all know, you can now be a prisoner and be an international celebrity if you have internet access. So all the people you want to lock up for twice as long may not be ‘out there’ committing crimes, but in the digital world, that could be their ticket to fame. Your concept of prison is out of date, that’s all I’m saying. And besides that, doesn’t pay any attention to the reasons for crime.

re: ‘You think you’re not in prison now mc viperess – 2nd post – 28 Sep 2004 18:38 Hi LR, But prison does work, for some. Many ex-offenders have gone on to be pillars of the community due to having re-habilitated inside the walls of a prison.
Of course liberty as well as evolution is totally different to today, therefore the same agenda imposed in the Victorian times would not be the same. We have rehabilitation wings for drug & alcohol misusers in prison, hepatitis & aids awareness programmes running for all prisoners, enhanced thinking courses, NVQ level courses etc, etc. These pertain to society today, not in Victorian times.
There is no escaping how we have evolved. Liberty/freedom means different things to each individual. Comparing evolution to those working in Asda & thsoe that watch telly as a past-time or otherwise is a bit random, imo. That definitely doesn’t sum up evolution.

re: ‘You think you’re not in prison now Little Richardjohn – 163rd post – 29 Sep 2004 11:08 When I kicked this one off, I said ‘The criminal’s experience of society means that prison is merely a change of location. Which means that society is becoming more like a prison, not the other way around.’ Which I wasn’t happy with. It didn’t really seem to follow and it didn’t say what I wanted, but I let it ride hoping that someone would say it better but dreading that someone would blow it out of the water. Nobody did. So even if it doesn’t logically follow, it seems that people don’t have a huge problem with the proposition that ordinary life today for many is limited enough to be comparable to living in prison. If that isn’t a contradiction in terms.
In other words the Royle Family is an acceptable depiction of a slightly ‘below average’ family(I’m not happy with that either). And If this is what people believe, at whatever level, then surely we should do something about it. So the debate isn’t really about prison and how easy or hard it is to do the time, it’s about the sort of society we live in. And the object of the exercise is to try to redefine our definition of liberty to match the sort of society we want. Some people want to make society better by punishing what they call ‘Evil’, which some of us are apparently born with. The more bloodthirsty the punishment, the more that evil will be suppressed. It doesn’t make it go away, but it does deny it certain avenues of expression. In theory. Others think that there are less mystical reasons for crime. REASONS – repeat, reasons – which can be analysed and predicted and understood and that information used to prevent crime. This inevitably means thinking about the sort of society we want to live in. I happen to think the second approach is the more ambitious, imaginative, honourable option which does the most justice to our status at the top of the evolutionary tree and which will best serve the interests of our grandchildren. (And me, especially as I get older and more vulnerable) The first belongs in the Stone Age, which is where we would still be if its proponents had won the socio-evolutionary battle between the progressives and the regressives. But we’re not in the Stone Age. So they obviously didn’t win the battle. (Hooray!) And they always WILL lose, if the record books and the existence of the electric toothbrush ARE anything to go by. They are the inferior species in this argument. Their ideas are not the ‘fittest’ because they fail to cater for Mankind’s almost infinite imagination and curiousity. Chairman Mao got that one thing right, ‘All reactionaries are paper tigers.’

re: ‘You think you’re not in prison now Rillington – 175th post – 28 Sep 2004 11:40 and that is your right to do so. I also do the same (well computer anyway) becuase my illness prevents me going out a lot of the time. I guess that makes me an outcast under LR’s so-called healthy society, as well as many other housebound people such as the physically disabled or the elderly. If you are sent to prison then you are deprived the liberty to make that choice because you are being punished for doing wrong. That’s the point of prison. That’s slightly different to choosing to stay in your room or being unable to go out for whatever reason. [reply] [Complain about this post]

re: ‘You think you’re not in prison now Little Richardjohn – 157th post – 28 Sep 2004 12:12 There’s some misunderstanding, I never called you an outcast. If you were deprived of access to the internet, radio and TV wouldn’t you feel more ‘imprisoned’. I would. The point is there are many able bodied people who live lives not very different from the housebound. You may say that is their choice, but it doesn’t diminish the fact that to many, the experience of prison is very much like that of being at home. One way to interpret this is to say that prison is too soft. The other way is to say that for many, liberty doesn’t amount to much. Which is why crime becomes attractive in the first place. With access to television and the internet, a person can pass the time in much the same way inside or outside prison. A person’s freedom is no longer defined by where they can physically go so much as by their bandwidth. So take away those media rights if you want to make prison harsher and a modern deprivation of liberty. This may or may not be an extra deterrent to crime, but the one thing it doesn’t do is to make life interesting enough to make crime uneccessary. Isn’t it important to do both?

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