Captain Moonlight's Notebook: Punished enough?

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FOUR were suspected burglars, one was in for suspected criminal damage. They all, however, suffered the same fate - an unending diet of Hits from the Sixties. It was 'Jailer's Choice' and there was nothing these first prisoners of Wellingborough's new lockup could do about it. The tape began rolling at midday on Friday when the 15 cell doors were opened to inmates (and presumably immediately closed).

The jail is wired for music to improve the atmosphere. A 'users group' set up when the jail was being built recommended piped music as a way of calming prisoners down. Airlines do it too, for passengers, before takeoff and landing, but familiarity can breed anxiety. I once sat next to a woman who suddenly exclaimed with horror as we sat on the runway, 'Christ, it's Vivaldi, we must be about to take off]' and grabbed my hand tightly. She was meant to relax.

There are no guidelines at Wellingborough. Psychiatrists have made no recommendations. The choice of music is left entirely to the 'custody officer', a Northamptonshire police spokesman told me. Seeking guidance from this newspaper's music critics, I can recommend the American composer Philip Glass as ideal for jailers. His six-hour Music in 12 Parts has been described as being rather like Chinese water torture - it will either send you to sleep or make you demented. I plan to keep well clear of the place.

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