Sunday, 1 August 2010

Huntley is in our duty of care; but shouldn't receive any money

That Ian Huntley, in prison for the murder of two children, may successfully sue the Prison Service for being attacked and be paid thousands of pounds of our money, cannot be right. However the arguments run, natural instincts, our gut reactions, say this cannot be right.

However, an hysterical reaction - ‘No way’ - is not helpful; nor does it look at the complexity of the situation.

I have had a long involvement one way and another with prisons and prison policy. I will defend to my last breath the principle that prisons must be humane. Whatever terrible crimes a prisoner has committed, our treatment of that prisoner reflects on us as a society. If we want to judge the humanity of a society, one way is to judge the society’s prisons and prison policy.

We lock people away for two reasons; one is to keep us safe and the other is to punish the criminal. ‘What is the correct balance?’ is a hard question.

Prisons are potentially violent places. Prison Officers and other workers in prisons have an extremely difficult job, and often a pretty thankless one. Yes, we have a duty of care within this system. Most Prison Officers understand this and take it seriously. That having been said, there are things that are wrong with the way our prisons work; but improvements are being made. The system is quite different than it was, say twenty years ago. But we cannot be complacent; we must strive for better conditions. It may be that a prisoner has behaved inhumanely (and there may be complex reasons contributing to this behaviour) but there is no excuse for us behaving inhumanely.

Prison Officers have greater difficulty keeping people like Ian Huntley safe than they do keeping general prisoners safe. That he was attacked and harmed, never the less, shows a failing. This failing must be appropriately investigated and all possible steps
genuinely be taken to ensure it doesn’t happen again - as I suspect they already have been.

But money being paid out cannot be right.

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