Magazine article The Spectator

Prison Doesn't Work

Magazine article The Spectator

Prison Doesn't Work

Article excerpt

From Peter J.M. Wayne Sir: That not one but two highly indignant letters to the editor (24 June) should have been occasioned by my humanitarian concerns about children in prison (Books, 17 June) is a sad and disturbing reflection of the cruel and punitive mood that dominates the whole stagnant debate about crime and punishment. Of course Mrs Jettubreck should expect to be able to walk the streets near her home unmolested. But merely to throw these troubled youngsters into jail -- a temporary respite at best -- at such a critical and impressionable age will only serve to heighten their sense of alienation.

Yes, they need taking in hand, but not by the older, already contaminated prisoners they will meet inside. These wayward boys (and girls) need to be given real and demanding challenges -- projects that will benefit them and the community where, let us not forget, they also live. Such schemes need imaginative and vocationally motivated leaders (I would relish such an opportunity were it offered to me) who can connect with the children, make them feel wanted, valued and (dare I say it? …

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