Letter: Innocent locked up

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Sir: We are now asked to "confine", possibly for life, people who have committed no crime but might do so. The monstrosity of this proposal can only be mitigated by assurances that these unhappy innocents will nevertheless be guaranteed all those liberties denied to convicted criminals in addition to the loss of liberty.

I mean the liberty to eat what and when they please, to go to bed and get up and to dress as they please. They must have access to entertainment and recreation of their choice, the freedom to entertain visiting friends when they please, and to move freely within the outer limit of their confinement. These are the minimal liberties of innocent people.

In addition we must be sure that they receive the medical attention that they need and not that which serves the interests of the medical profession or the institution in which they are confined.

Finally we must be confident that they and the staff of that institution do not become institutionalised (as happens in ordinary prisons) because that would, of course, negate the possibility of any effective treatment.

I have sketched the minimal requirements of justice. They would cost a lot but I am sure that the Home Secretary's anxiety for the right kind of popularity will spur him on to find the money.


Professor of Social Anthropology

University of Sussex

Lewes, East Sussex