Prisoners are no longer allowed to be sent books in the UK. There is absolutely no reason for these new rules, brought in recently by the Justice Secretary Chris Grayling(the gilt clad ponce pictured below), that I can conceive of. Normally when the government passes such rules aimed at attacking parts of society they try and dress it up with claims of cutting costs or protecting vulnerable parts of society. In this case it is pure vindictiveness.
The whole notion of punishment for crimes is both flawed and barbaric. If we want to live in a civilised society, and I most certainly do, then we need to focus on creating the social conditions that prevent crime. Punishing a person who has committed a crime, and remember – most crimes are economically motivated and violent crime is in the minority, makes absolutely no sense unless you think that vengeance should be the motivating factor of a justice system. I, personally, think that the concept of vengeance is barbaric and serves absolutely no positive social function. It appeals to our most base selves and pandering to it turns us into little more than plebs baying for blood in the arena(e.g. see this brilliant piece of satire on the paedophile frenzy that swept the UK in the early 00s).
We need to find a way to move our society in a more egalitarian direction. To move towards a society where all have equal access to the benefits of an advanced technological society. As well as making society a more pleasant place to live this may actually help fend off the wholesale collapse of our civilisation. As much as I love a good post apocalyptic dystopia, and let’s be honest – who doesn’t? I would rather that such scenarios remain purely fictional. The Conservative Party, on the other hand, seem intent on modelling society on some fucked up Steampunk nightmare. As if they read The Diamond Age and thought that sounded “just spiffy old bean”.
Whilst the banning of books being sent into prisoners may not seem like an important issue, sympathy for the incarcerated is not something that is widely encouraged in our society, it is, I feel, illustrative of a general regression in our society. A back slide into the barbarism of the 19th Century and the Victorian and Edwardian ages. Grayling and his ilk seem intent upon dragging us back to the days of work houses and debtors prisons. A Victoriana for the 21st Century with prisoners forced to labour for a pittance so that they can afford supposed luxuries like books or clean clothes(prisoners are also now barred from receiving items of clothing from the outside meaning that in women’s prisons some are forced to wear the same underwear for the duration of their incarceration).
For most of the last fifty years or so the prison system has been touted as having a focus on ‘reforming’ those within its walls. On education and training to allow prisoners, upon release, to enter back into ‘civil’ society. This ban on books being sent in shows that this pretence is being let slip and the viciousness of the powers that be is revealed. They don’t seek to improve society, they seek only a captive labour force that can be exploited in order that someone may turn a profit.
I do believe that this viciousness is quite particular to the Conservative Party. I don’t doubt, not for a second, that either the Liberal Democrats or the Labour Party would be doing anything differently when it comes to the outright attacks upon the fabric of society that the Conservatives are engaging in. They would just have the common decency to not guffaw and jeer at us whilst they were kicking us from pillar to post. That is the main difference between the parties. Not their economic or social policies but the level of glee they display at the effects of their actions upon the people of this island. As a wag once put it: “The only difference between Labour and the Tories is that Labour will give you a cuddle after they’ve fucked you”.