Sunday, 19 September 2010

Symposium on controversial issues in prisons

I will be speaking in Preston this week.  Full details of the event are:

British Society of Criminology (NW Branch)
Symposium on controversial issues in prisons
Harrington Lecture Theatre, University of Central Lancashire,
September 22nd 2010


9.00 – 9.30 - Welcome and registration

9.30 - 11.00 Morning Session: Exploring controversial issues in prisons (part 1)
  • David Scott, University of Central Lancashire -Thinking about controversial issues in prison
  • Deborah Coles, INQUEST - Self inflicted deaths of women in prison
  • Barry Goldson, Liverpool University - Child incarceration, state-sanctioned violence and cultures of impunity
11.00 – 11.30 Coffee Break

11.30 – 13.00 Morning Session: Exploring controversial issues in prisons (part 2)
  • Toby Seddon, Manchester University - Mental health in prison
  • Elaine Crawley, Salford University  - Elder prisoners
  • Helen Codd, University of Central Lancashire  - Families of prisoners
13.00 - 14.00 Lunch Break

14.00 – 14.55 Afternoon Session: Responding to controversial issues in prisons (part 1)
  • Joseph Trueman - A view from an ex-prisoner
  • Jamie Bennett, HM Prison Service - Prison Managerialism: How prison managers respond to controversial issues
14.55 – 15.05 Short Interval

15.05 – 16.00 Afternoon Session: Responding to controversial issues in prisons (part 2)

  • Joe Sim, Liverpool John Moores University -We Are All Liberals Now: Science, prison staff and the Prison-Welfare Industry
  • John Moore, University of West England  - The limits of penal reform
16.00-16.15 Close of symposium

For further information and / or to register for your free place and free buffet lunch please contact David Scott

Mumsnet -v- M&S

"Hooters" a nasty sexist "family" restaurant who require their staff to be sexual harassed has recently decided to move into the UK.  Bristol is one of the cities they want to open in.  They have managed to sublet a former Marks & Spencer's "Simply Food" outlet on the harbour-side.  Bristol Council have agreed the necessary planning permission.

The plans to open the branch seemed to steamed ahead when one local Bristol woman, JessinAvalon decided to express her opposition on Mumsnet, a social network for predominately affluent middle class women in their 30s and 40s. I have been watching the responses and the tactic of the mumsnetters have been to target M&S, where I suspect many of them spend rather a lot of money.  M&S has resisted to date, claiming their decision to sublet to Hooters is commercial and in no way endorses the company, its sexist employment practices or its sexist products.

M&S have an existing relationship with Mumsnet and are listed on their front page as supporter of the Let Girls be Girls campaign.

If this is true it will be interesting to see if this decision really was in M&S's commercial interest.  Whatever rent M&S is getting for their Bristol property is likely to be dwarfed by the amount charged to the high credit limit plastic the mumsnet women flash in their stores.  If the boycott takes off expect a rapid retreat by M&S.

The campaign is now spreading into the broadsheets with the Indie on Sunday and the Sunday Telegraph both running stories today.  Both stories provide excellent publicity for Mumsnet and very bad publicity for M&S.

M&S were earlier this month one of the British retailers caught up in a sweatshop scandal with workers at their suppliers forced to work 18 hours a day at rates as low as 25p an hour

Sharing the pain? Pull the other one!

David Cameron, George Osbourne and Nick Clegg have claimed time and time that we must all share the pain of sorting out public finances. But how does the coalitions walk compare to its talk.  Unfortunately the evidence is increasingly that it doesn't.  Whilst the weakest and most vulnerable are being targeted to take the brunt of the cuts the richest and most powerful are continuing to be allowed to plunder the public finances.

Whilst public attention over recent weeks has focused on Government attempts to cut a further £4 billion of disability benefit with Nick Clegg telling the disabled that benefits were not there "to compensate the poor for their predicament" Private Eye this week revealed that the Government had agreed to let corporate giant Vodaphone off a £6 billion tax bill.

The Eye also reveals the deal was negociated by Vodaphone by a former senior HMRC official who moved to the darkside to head the team seeking the tax windfall.  Vodaphone's Finance Director is also an unpaid (sic) advisor to the Chancellor on corporate tax.

If it stinks it is likely to be because it is rotten!

PS Well done to the Indian Tax Authorities.  On a very similiar deal they refused to cave into Vodaphone and took the tax cheats to the courts and won this month.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Rousseau on private property

The first man who, having enclosed a piece of ground, took it into his head to say, “This is mine”, and found people simple enough to believe him, was the true founder of civil society. What crimes, wars and murders, what miseries and horrors would the human race have been spared if some one had torn up the stakes, or filled the ditch, and cried out to his comrades; “Beware of heeding this imposter. You are lost if you forget that the fruits of the ground belong to all, and the ground itself to no one”

(JJ Rousseau, ‘Discourse upon the Origin and Foundation of Inequality among Men’, in The Social Contract and Discourses, trans GDH Cole. (London 1966) p. 192)

Saturday, 4 September 2010

Adam Smith Institure argues for legalisation of drugs to reduce prison population

From the Adam Smith Institute's blog

The Adam Smith Institute has advocated a more sensible policy, involving the medicalisation of addictive and damaging drugs, and the legalisation of recreational drugs. Such a policy would eliminate the financial burden of incarcerating drug offenders, as well as the need to expend precious resources to police drug-related crimes. The decriminalization of drugs, as has been successfully completed in Portugal with positive results, has the potential to save the British taxpayer money, and simultaneously improve the security and health of the general public. The coalition government should use this opportunity to inject sensibility into the criminal justice system and eliminate costly penalties for drugs

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Ketamine is 'magic drug' for depression

Claims the Daily Telegraph
A single dose of the drug Ketamine acts like "magic" lifting people out of depression in hours and lasting more than a week, scientists claim
Full article here

Whilst the Independent reports
Ecstasy can help the victims of post-traumatic stress overcome their demons, research has shown. In tests, the illegal dance drug had a dramatic effect on previously untreatable patients who suffered post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Is it any surprise that the drugs do work?

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Fair Fines

The fine as a punishment has many advantages, it is swift, cheap to administer and does not have the labeling consquences of other criminal justice interventions.

However its main problem is fairness. A £1,000 fine is a minor inconvience to a rich person but has a massive impact on someone on benefits.  One way around this is the idea of "unit fines". Essential this results in the level of fine reflecting the income levels of those who are convicted.

The impact of this approach is highlighted by this BBC news story
A Swedish motorist caught driving at 290km/h (180mph) in Switzerland could be given a world-record speeding fine of SFr1.08m ($1m; £656,000), prosecutors say.

The 37-year-old, who has not been named, was clocked driving his Mercedes sports car at 170km/h over the limit.

Under Swiss law, the level of fine is determined by the wealth of the driver and the speed recorded.

In January, a Swiss driver was fined $290,000 - the current world record.

Local police spokesman Benoit Dumas said of the latest case that "nothing can justify a speed of 290km/h".

"It is not controllable. It must have taken 500m to stop," he said.

The Swede's car - a Mercedes SLS AMG - has been impounded and in principle he could be forced to pay a daily fine of SFr3,600 for 300 days