Letter: A night in jail

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The Independent Culture
Sir: Governor O'Sullivan's initiative ("A night in Brixton jail - yours for pounds 50", 14th September) is laudable, and his project will doubtless appeal to the curiosity of the law-abiding and raise much-needed funds for the Macmillan cause. Two matters are however of pressing interest.

Why, if refurbishment of the A wing cells is complete, are they not to be used straight away for prisoner occupation? Over the summer, pressure on cell accommodation in London has been so great that prisoners are being moved outside the Metropolitan area almost every day. The 200 spaces in A wing are sorely needed to relieve pressure on the other London prisons.

Secondly, this "unique event" will doubtless require a substantial project to restore the security status of the cells after their overnight paying guests have left - who knows what parting gifts might otherwise have been left for the official occupants? How are the extra staff, sniffer dogs, cleaning and security searches to be financed?

This public relations exercise should not be allowed to divert attention from the very real problems of prisoner numbers and their welfare, and they should come before even the most worthy of charities.

JENIFER BALL

Chairman, Greater London Lay Observers' Panel

London SW12

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