Monday, October 23, 2006

Floating prisons (again)

It seems that John Reid is thinking of that old floating prisons chestnut again.
Home Secretary John Reid has been accused of panic measures over plans to use prison ships to ease overcrowding in jails in England and Wales.

The government has advertised for contractors to provide up to 800 places on ships.

As I recall, the last time that I recall someone seriously suggesting imprisoning people in old warships—rather than Jack Straw's rather fey armwave—was when Michael Howard popped up to declare it a good idea. I hadn't realised that it had been done.
Britain's last floating prison - HMP Weare moored at Portland Harbour in Dorset - closed last year after the chief inspector of prisoners described the vessel as "unsuitable, expensive and in the wrong place".

I still treasure my copy of the Private Eye—dated 21 February 1997—that was published when Michael Howard (who was, I think, still Home Secretary at the time) did suggest this solution to prison overcrowding; thoughtfully, I have scanned it for you.

Can we scuttle those ships now...?


Blognor Regis said...

I hadn't realised that it had been done.

If you'd lived in the South West at the time you would have. It was big news at the time.

So, anyway, I can't work out if you're for or against? I think it depends it they're actually chained to the dock in a Force 10 or not.

Devil's Kitchen said...

I've no feelings either way, to be honest. Having been around a couple of old warships, I would say that they should be reserved for the "worst" criminals (Force 10 or no); it would be fucking miserable.

Mind you, I personally think that making prisons so awful that no one ever wants to go back would be a good thing...


Blognor Regis said...

Shades of Sheriff Joe Arpaio out in Maricopa County Arizona: ""It's 120 degrees in Iraq and our soldiers are living in tents too, and they have to wear full battle gear, but they didn't commit any crimes... so shut your damned mouths."

My Dad did years on Royal Navy frigates, and I once did a lap from Devonport to Falmouth and back on families day, what did we do? Still it could be worse, on submarines there is only one bed per three sailors or therabouts.

Anyway I don't think anyone is talking about ex-warships are they. HMP Weare wasn't an ex-warship was it? It probably gets to be an HMS by virtue of being and HMP.

Pogo said...

At least it stops the cunts from tunnelling their way out!

John Hirst said...

I seem to recall that HMP Weare was moored in Jack Strw's constituency and that he promised to move into Michael Howard's constituency if Labour came into power. They did and he didn't. One more election promise broken!

chris said...

HMP Weare was a purpose built barge, and from reports at the time quite sort after given that most of the cells had a sea view. Rather different from the victorian prison hulks.

As an aside at Navy Days this year I managed to get onto one of the tours of the Nuke subs. Amazingly tiny! but the guide said there where beds for almost everybody with only the more junior rates having to share a bed space. However he also said that when on patrol they cannot dump any rubbish as it could give their position away, so they compress it and have to keep it on board for months until the patrol ends.

Pete in Dunbar said...

Cool. 19th century solutions to 21st century problems.

Bill said...

I am surprised that you did not recall Ms Widdecombe's role (she was a Home Office Minister at the time) in acquiring the recently decommissioned floating prison, specially as you have carefully kept that delicious 'Private Eye' issue of the time.

For the record I believe that HMP Weare was formerly an oil industry accommodation rig and so would not have been absolutely horrendous, although undoubtedly not ideally suited for use as a prison. On the other hand I don't think prisons should necessarily be particularly 'desirable' residences, after all why would one wish to encourage returnees, but it should certainly permit some semblance of rehabilitation training activities and this is probably where it failed, other than as an emergency solution.

Listening to Ms Widdecombe querying why the present crowd of shysters hadn't foressen the prison crowding problem and commissioned new prison building projects in good time only makes me wonder why she, Howard and Major didn't plan in good time when they were still in power - unfortunately the interviewer didn't ask that question.

chris said...

Cool. 19th century solutions to 21st century problems.

Except the crimes are all exactly the same as in the 19th century, drunkenness, theft, violence, murder. Not one bit of difference, so the solution that worked in the 19th century, policing based on Peels Principals and instilling a sense of self reliance and responsibility for yourself, will work just as well now as it did then.

CityUnslicker said...

DK if you wanted to make prison so horrble they would never want to go back, then surely the answer is to turn 16 Old Queen Street into a prison for a few hundred of the hardcore....