Letter: Reality and fantasy of life in British prisons

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Sir: 'Imagine our prisons run by Lord Forte', runs the headline over Colin Welch's piece today. It could do wonders for the tourist trade if the Government created its own new attraction - the London Jail Experience - to match Buckingham Palace.

Officials could use an ancient, architecturally attractive prison like Pentonville, having cleared out the prisoners first. Tourists will flock to a jail - as they do to Alcatraz in San Francisco Bay. Britain could add touches of its own. Guests could wear the traditional broad arrow uniform which disappeared 70 or 80 years ago.

Warders dressed in Tudor costumes designed by the British Tourist Authority and bearing double-headed plastic axes could act as waiters. They could supervise the historic slopping-out ceremony for those insisting on being three- ed up in a cell. Bring back the treadmill, but charge guests a fiver for each go.

Most guests would doubtless leave through the prison's vast double gates. But those wanting adventure could opt for the Group 4 Experience. They would be locked in a prison van with Group 4 staff and anyone escaping in less than 20 minutes could have their money back.

The Government talks endlessly about the entrepreneurial spirit. Now is the time to demonstrate it.

Yours faithfully,


London, N19

10 May