This is the official blog of ex-Sgt Ellie Bloggs. I was a real live police constable then sergeant for twelve years, on the real live front line of England. I'm now a real live non-police person. All the facts I recount are true, and are not secrets. If they don't want me blogging about it, they shouldn't do it. PS If you don't pay tax, you don't (or didn't) pay my salary.

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Sunday, January 02, 2011

Brought to Justice

Crispin Blunt, the prisons minister, whose name sounds like a character from a Restoration comedy, tells us that the rioters in HMP Ford "must be brought to justice".  Presumeably he means they must be sent back to prison to continue drinking and rioting.

I once dealt with an absconder from another open prison, who we arrested on the streets of Blandmore following a fortuitous person check by a PCSO.  The paperwork faxed through from  Leyhill contained the following phrases: "The prison is surrounded by a low three foot wall that can be easily jumped" and "the prisoners know they are not allowed to jump the wall".  This useful information enabled us to interview and charge the absconder, who was shipped off to a higher security prison pending his removal back to Leyhill once he was due to be released soon again. 

The above link informs us that Leyhill is home to 532 prisoners, 110 of whom are "lifers".  The only thing that a life sentence is given out for in this country is murder, or attempted murder if the offender has a LOT of violent previous.  Which means that 110 would-be killers are wandering around the grounds of Leyhill Prison with just a rulebook standing between them and society. I've been a police officer for a while now, but I honestly had no idea that this many prisoners were kept in what could more accurately be described as a hotel with rules.  If you look at HMP Ford's rulebook, it sounds more like a private boarding school than a prison.

The fact is that there is no such thing as Justice any more.  The most you can hope for if you are brutally raped, or a family member murdered, is that the culprit will be held out of reach of society until he/she's forgotten whatever urges prompted him/her to attack.  You will have to accept that the perpetrator is probably wearing his own clothes, watching TV, going to the gym and getting access to all the contraband he wants.  If he ends up in Leyhill or Ford as he nears the end of his determinate sentence period, you could even go and wave at him (or shoot him) over the three foot wall.

Believe it or not, I am a fan of rehabilitation.  But the point about prison is that the person has received a custodial sentence because voluntary rehabilitation has not worked.  It probably has not worked 20 or 30 times.  We are dealing with people who have never heard the word "no", who never accept they have lost, who always manage to wriggle out of the wrong they have done and have no empathy with others, nor any scruples.

The only option is therefore to either accept they are not fit to live in society, or inflict a  prison regime that acts as both deterrent and encouragement to truly reform.  Incentives should be linked to gaining qualifications and learning to turn up for work reliably.  Punishments should be uncompromising and with no right of appeal.  They need to be lined up and told "no" again and again until they listen.  And if they don't listen, they don't get released.

I'm not authoritarian.  I have great empathy for the kids I deal with aged 11-14, on the brink of criminality, and I know the dreadful home lives they have experienced.  But the truth is that all effective discipline and guidance has been taken out of the Criminal Justice System. We have no means of deterrent or control.  Crime has won.  It's time to take back the streets.

'Diary of an On-Call Girl' is available in some bookstores and online.


Blogger Gary Williams said...

I read that link to the prison and for a moment I thought it was a hotel description rather than that of a prison.

02 January, 2011 18:10

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I too am a fan of rehabilitation, but only after the offender has accepted punishment as part of a sentence. During my military days, one of the places that no-one wanted to go to was a Military Prison. Any sentence was divided into parts. The first part was induction with no privileges whatsoever and behaviour dictated whether privileges would be given - be a tw&t and you stay at that induction level; behave and meet the rules and privileges were gradually restored. When a certain level of behaviour and adherence to the rules was met, then the rehabilition began. Unfortunately, the human rights brigade stuck their oars in and the system changed to being similar to civil prisons - the only thing missing is that prison staff do not wear red or blue coats. With regard to Leyhill, I'd raise the height of the wall, install some barbed wire and tell the cons that as they made the place into a wreck, they could livie in it until they rebuilt it! But then, I am regarded as being to the right of Vlad the Impaler!

02 January, 2011 20:25

Anonymous Noggsy said...

On the other hand, I am considered a liberal by my colleagues on CID and I too believe in rehabilitation, although only for those who can be rehabilitated.

To those who say prison doesn't work, I say it clearly does, because those people who Bloggsy is talking about, who have no self-control, are at least not able to hurt many people in prison (unless it's an open prison).

Sentencing has become a joke in this country, a very unpleasant and incomprehensible joke and this needs to change. I like the idea of a 'hard' regime as described above, with oriveliges being gradually earned. But first, we need to be sending people prison for realistic amounts of time. Unless you kill, rape or steal a lot of money there is not guarantee you are even going to prison.

Excellent post Ellie, extremely well put.

03 January, 2011 00:08

Blogger Crime Analyst said...

Nail on the head once again Ellie.

Pity those on planet Clarke seem to be working from a completely different agenda.


03 January, 2011 01:57

Anonymous Lance Manley- Former Stab Proof Scarecrow said...

I was a Special Constable with City of London in 2005 while my day job was running an educational summer camp in London for 120 hormonal 14-16 year old teenagers from 5 countries.

I was on duty in the aftermath of both July 7th (at Aldgate station) and July 21st 2005.

I had a zero tolerance approach to mischief from the kids which became stricter following the attacks. I kicked two kids out for rule breaking that broke the law (marijuana and criminal damage) and at the end of the summer we had topped the list of the 22 centres the company ran and were the only one that didn't get billed for damage by the establishment who'd loaned us their campus for 6 weeks.

The following summer the company re-employed me with a condition that I be "less strict" as most staff didn't want to work with me again as I was too much of a disciplinarian. I was instructed to go out for a pint with the staff, let the kids go unpunished for everything ("their parents might not want to send them to us next year if you upset them") and....

Cue criminal damage, a staff member walking out in tears due to bullying from her line manager that I was not allowed to intervene in ("she might resign and we can't afford that") and the kids running riot.

None of this mattered to the company though as they were not alienating people with a manager who kept kids safe but made them follow rules, but had a cuddly little manager who smiled a lot and let the kids get away with murder.

In the words of Captain Jack Aubrey from Patrick O'Brien's novels "Men must be governed. Not always fairly I grant you but they MUST be governed."

03 January, 2011 02:03

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Absolutely agree with you

03 January, 2011 09:24

Blogger jerym said...

Spot on again blogs
The voice of reason

03 January, 2011 11:25

Anonymous Anonymous said...

'people who have never heard the word "no", who never accept they have lost, who always manage to wriggle out of the wrong they have done and have no empathy with others, nor any scruples'

You mean politicians, police SMT's and bankers yes?

03 January, 2011 11:57

Anonymous Cabbage said...

Hmm. Usually everything you say feels right to me, but I think you're missing the point a bit here. Those lifers haven't spent their whole sentences is open prisons; they're moved there shortly before release so they can be gradually eased back into living in society, often with training courses or (supervised) unpaid work on the outside.

Whether they abscond or not, society wins. If they don't, then they'll be released better-adjusted than before and with a chance of becoming at least a functional member of society with a job to keep them away from crime. If they DO abscond, well, they'd have been released soon anyway, and this way we know they're dangerous before they attack someone, you guys have a much better chance of nicking them (since they don't need to commit a crime first), and once they're nicked it's back to maximum security to serve a much bigger chunk of their sentence than they otherwise would've before they become eligible for release again. As far as I can see, this can only be a good thing.

03 January, 2011 11:59

Anonymous Anonymous said...

'they'll be released better-adjusted than before and with a chance of becoming at least a functional member of society with a job to keep them away from crime'

Nice thought. Never happens.

I've said it before and I'll say it again; in all my years in the police I have only ever arrested a small handful of people who didn't already have a lengthy criminal record. And they were usually innocent in the end anyway.

03 January, 2011 15:32

Anonymous Anonymous said...

To cabbage, mate, brilliant comment. I nearly pissed myself. Best joke I've heard in ages.

03 January, 2011 16:41

Anonymous FatBigot said...

@Anon/Plodnomore 02 January, 2011 20:25

"Tell the cons that as they made the place into a wreck, they could live in it until they rebuilt it."

Absolutely SPOT ON!

Personally, the only way to deal with re-offending is to make punishment automatic and treat them like children: If you re-offend then your previous sentences have not worked, and they must be served again, in addition to the sentence for this crime. Re-offenders would quickly find themselves being locked up for exponentially longer periods of time. Once 5 years have been accumulated they can go to a low-cost prison in India, China or Russia.

03 January, 2011 19:51

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I went to boarding school and there were ALLOT more rules than those listed on the link to the the Leyhill website, including punishments of early morning runs / beastings at 06:00 followed by freezing cold showers. Can't see that happening at Leyhill, the staff would be sued for a 'breach of my human rights.'

We can argue about the merits of rehabilitation until the cows come home, what prison SHOULD mean, is that while an offender is locked up, society is protected from their various crimes waves - end of story.

04 January, 2011 08:09

Anonymous Ben said...

Hear hear.

How many social workers does it take to change a criminal?

None, he will change when he wants to.

Fear of punishment will go a long way to encourage that change of heart.

It is also the single best gift we can give to those who want to change but are struggling with temptation.

04 January, 2011 13:41

Anonymous Jaques said...

WPC Bloggs..... you seem bitter and resentful that soi-disant "criminals" do not conforn to the prescribed rules of society.

Do you feel threatened by them?

Or do you just feel impotent in your job? ( which no doubt you willnow persue with great vigour and climb that "greasy pole" with no more thought towards the Aristotlean definition of justice than any career payroll-parasite copper ever does.

You disgust every right-thinking taxpayer who pays yopur inflated, worhless wages.

04 January, 2011 22:05

Anonymous WMIDPLOD said...

Prison shouldn't be just about rehabilitation.Don't forget there are victims who quite rightly expect offenders to be punished,although the open prison sketch appears not to do this.Most of the serious repeat offenders we arrested 10/15 years ago are..........STILL BANG AT IT,THEY ONLY STOP WHEN IN PRISON.

04 January, 2011 22:27

Anonymous Mac said...


Unlike some other commenters I agree with you up to a point. The problem at the moment is that the 'lifers' are not being moved to open prisons as a result of a carefully thought out rehabilitation package. They are being moved there well in advance of normal because of lack of prison space.

For the same reason, don't expect too many to be serving so much as an extra day in custody for what has happened at Leyhill. Why would Kenneth Clarke want too vigorous an investigation to end up keeping people in he'd rather not pay for keeping in? Rehabilitation/punishment doesn't come into it. It's about cost. He's always been a man who knows the cost of everything and the value of nothing. (I remember Sheehy).

05 January, 2011 13:29

Anonymous Fitzroy said...

Apologies if I'm feeding the trolls but:

To Jacques: serving prisoners are, by definition, criminals, so hardly 'soi-distant', wouldn't you say?

Given your reference to Aristotlean conceptions of justice, and your overall tone, I wonder if you are bitter and resentful that some activity of yours which you do not consider 'unfair' or 'inequitable' is nevertheless proscribed by our society and considered unlawful?

Finally, I am a right-thinking tax payer and am not disgusted by Ellie, so your final statement is, empirically, false.

05 January, 2011 13:55

Anonymous Serpico said...

Excellent blog. Courts are too soft, no wonder police officers have little faith in them. As a response officer, I am often heard saying to undesirables the following statements:

(1)We own the streets not you.
(2)You don't tell us what to do, we tell you what to do, as your parents have clearly not taught you what NO means.
(3)Stop complaining about bail checks at 0300hrs, if you had not committed the crime, we wouldn't be knocking at your door.

05 January, 2011 17:26

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sergeant Bloggs spot on,
People do what pleases them, no one voluntary does anything that is painful,
Syrus [Maxims] many blue moons ago sayeth
"Metus improbus compescit non clementia"
fear not kindness restrains the wicked.
Fear of colleagues disapproval leads the fear category, thus Jail is like winning sevens at twickers, all ones buddies cheer you beats all the bruises and concussion.

Every Criminal will continue and will remain committing crime unless a force is applied to change his behaviour. [thanks to IN]
pain applied

06 January, 2011 02:07

Anonymous Wheeler said...

Fitzroy, great phrase "feeding the trolls", I'll just toss in another scrap ...

Jaques - bitter & resentful of criminals not conforming to society's rules - where would we all be without those rules do you think!? It concerns me when people break them (criminals by definition) because our society and the way of life most of us value is threatened. And it follows of course, if there are rules, they must be policed.

If you don't agree with the rules you have the choice to vote for different rule-makers or go and live somewhere else. Your comments are so obtuse I am wondering if you're just trying to be provocative.

06 January, 2011 13:37

Blogger Kimpatsu said...

We are dealing with people who have never heard the word "no", who never accept they have lost, who always manage to wriggle out of the wrong they have done and have no empathy with others, nor any scruples.
Oh, you mean police officers, then...

07 January, 2011 13:57

Anonymous Sean said...

It does seem bizarre that people in Ford riot, given that it will result in them being sent somewhere nastier.

But then most people are inside because they can't make the connection between actions and consequences, so seeing them piss on their chips like this at least lets you know who to keep in. (And yes you can keep cons inside for breach of rules if you really wnat to).

08 January, 2011 18:50

Anonymous TheBinarySurfer said...

Good post, agree fully. Rehabilitation is now ALWAYS the answer even if it's failed. You can always trust people to act in their own self interest; make it so they don't want to go to prison and 'shock' i bet reoffending rates drop like a stone.

Never happen though; fact is we have 1.5* the population as a country we can cope with in terms of prisons, and that's before a totally buggered CJS is factored in.

15 January, 2011 01:18


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