Letter: Reality and fantasy of life in British prisons

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The Independent Online
Sir: Parked up in a sweltering broom cupboard of a cell for the umpteenth month of a very long prison sentence, I could not help but feel enraged at Colin Welch's lamentable misconceptions in his column 'Imagine our prisons run by Lord Forte' (10 May).

He paints a stereotypical representation of imprisonment in the Nineties; through his gilt-edged ignorance, he cannot even begin to comprehend the all-too-frequent dark reality of prison life.

For example, not only does the 'hotel-type questionnaire' he alludes to fail to illustrate the dual nature of imprisonment (the majority of prisoners placed on normal location as opposed to a burgeoning subculture in segregation blocks up and down the land, enduring all the stimuli of a Stalinist dystopia); but he also fails to emphasise the bleak fact that more than 50 prisoners each year commit suicide in British prisons, and that for most of these unfortunate people, who do not need to be in prison, the only 'serene haven of light and learning' they will find will not be on a terrestrial level.

Yours in 'reality',

TERRY SMITH

HM Prison Long Lartin

Evesham,

Worcestershire

10 May

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