From Lord Hunt of


Sir: I don't always agree with the views expressed by Polly Toynbee but, for what little it is worth, I would like to support most strongly her article today ("Man enough for poisonous porridge", 13 December) about the treatment accorded by the Home Secretary to Judge Stephen Tumim, lately Chief Inspector of Prisons.

I would wish to plant a small personal flag beside the standard hoisted by the judge, in his courageous and persistent campaign for a more constructive policy in regard to the treatment of prisoners. There is no need for me to add to the ominous warnings bearing upon the prison population in particular, and society at large, which may result from the pursuit of Michael Howard's negative attitude towards crime in the community, and the treatment of offenders in our prisons. Stephen Tumim's warnings are based on more up-to-date information than I have, but I believe they are as relevant as they were when I was first involved in the criminal justice system nearly 30 years ago.

Sooner or later, these policies will have to change - or God help democracy.

Yours sincerely,

John Hunt

Aston, Oxfordshire

14 December

The writer was the first chairman of the Parole Board, 1967-73.