Letters: A super prison costs too much

These letters appear in the Saturday 7th September edition of the Independent
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“Four jails will close to make way for £250m ‘super-prison’ in Wales” ran your story (5 September) about jails in Reading, Dorchester, Blundeston and Northallerton closing and one giant one being built to replace them.

Does this mean that all the local employment is lost? And then we, the public, will be paying for all the travel warrants for relatives to visit the super-prison, which will presumably be nowhere near where any of the families live – which also means that children will suffer because they will not be able to visit in term time?

Forcing prisoners to be ferried hundreds of miles away from where they live and away from their relatives to one big place seems a poorly thought out idea.

Surely building replacement prisons on existing sites would be better.

Martin Sandaver, Cusop Dingle, Hay-on-Wye


Super-prisons? Spend millions, lock ’em up in their thousands, throw away the key, and all criminal problems will disappear. What next? A return to debtors’ prisons? That will surely reduce the number of benefit scroungers, if not bankers.

This might please the hang ’em and flog ’em brigade, but it will prove expensive for the country in many ways, with no proof of an effective outcome. Quite the opposite.

In 2007, the Labour Government announced it would build three giant Titan prisons, each holding up to 2,500 prisoners.

There was an outcry against the plan, largely based on evidence from the USA and France, where such institutions had proved to cause more problems among prisoners and increased reoffending.  The plans for the Titan prisons were quietly dropped.

Many offenders have problems with drugs, mental health or limited education. I wrote to the then Home Secretary, Dr John Reid, to ask him to provide details of the Home Office budget to treat those conditions, in support of rehabilitation, in comparison with the £2.3bn to build the Titans.

With some persistence, I discovered that there was no such budget.

Successful rehabilitation is known to reduce a wide range of social problems and their costs to the taxpayer.

That is not to say that perpetrators of serious crimes should not be punished by long prison sentences; but small amounts to treat small offenders, if applied professionally, could provide considerable savings, in the heartache of victims and in public funds.

What’s the bet that there is still no budget for that need?

MALCOLM MACINTYRE-READ, Much Wenlock, Shropshire


You report that four English jails will close and 2,000 (mainly English) prisoners will move to a new facility in Wrexham. I wonder what the English would say if you reported that the Welsh Government intended to export 2,000 Welsh prisoners to England.

Nigel Scott, London N22


Labour and party funding

Contrary to the impression given by your headline “Labour says taxpayers may have to pay more for political parties” (6 September), I do not believe that a Labour government could simply force through public funding of political parties.

I do believe that Labour can and should campaign for a £5,000 limit on all donations, and this, ideally with the support of other parties, should be legislated for without any prior demand for public funding.

Only once it was clear that political parties were giving up big money would it be possible to try to win public consent for some funding of democratic political parties.

John Denham

MP for Southampton Itchen, House of Commons, SW1


Why not combine the five conservative parties and save on the funding issue?

Bob Simmonds

Stickney, Lincolnshire


Soccer success starts at bottom

Before Greg Dyke’s admirable ambitions for the future of England’s football team can have any hope of fulfilment, a few facts must be faced.

Pioneering the game to the world, as we did, does not confer any guarantee of superiority. Winning the World Cup once has left an unwarranted legacy of expectation. But if there exist today young players with the ability, desire and character to play at the highest level, no club will deny them the chance.

The Football Association, albeit belatedly, has not been inactive. New regulations prioritising skill before results are now being put in place for players in the three youngest age groups. Over following seasons, these principles will be extended to older players. This does not necessarily promise a team of world-beaters in 2022, but raising the base level is a start. We may also need to look at the quality of teaching: a coaching badge does not always indicate the ability to inspire.

That is where we must begin. Top-down solutions don’t work. 

Gerald Sinstadt

Tittensor, Staffordshire


The new chairman of the FA, Greg Dyke, could do a lot to return our Sundays to the family.

I recall the days when Dad, with pencil in hand, told everyone to shush as he listened to the football results on a Saturday afternoon. He was looking for those eight draws that might have made a big difference to his working-class family. It never happened. Yet we had the following day left undisturbed for the family. After Sunday school and lunch, all five of us, like all our neighbours, went for a walk along the country lanes, many with prams and pushchairs. That was because there was no football being played.

Mr Dyke could rise up against the TV moguls. League football could be returned to Saturdays, with selected games being shared among all the television companies. Over the season, every league club would get a share of viewing rights, and attendances would rise as couch-potato fans were dragged away from their living rooms – and cans of beer – to watch the games live. It would be good for the health of the clubs and the fans.

Terry Duncan, Bridlington, East Yorkshire


Even special relationships end

Sometimes marriages can unfortunately deteriorate into abusive relationships, at which point divorce is the best option for all concerned.

With the recent parliamentary vote on Syria, some commentators have mourned the demise of the “special relationship” between the UK and USA. There have, indeed, been great moments, from Churchill and Roosevelt to Thatcher and Reagan.

However, many British and American citizens have become concerned that, as opposed to an alliance that protects our mutual freedoms, this “special relationship” has mutated into one that represses our populations.

Even more important to a nation’s survival than the integrity of its border is its constitution – that its government operates entirely lawfully. This means protecting journalists who reveal abuses of power, and state officials who blow the whistle on such abuses.

Britain and America’s governments should view recent events not as a setback, but as an opportunity to ask themselves what purpose our alliance should serve, and to ensure that purpose is entirely for the benefit of our citizens and the world beyond our borders.

A R Wainwright, Halstead, Essex


Academies can raise standards

Professor Stephen Gorard (“Academies ‘increase divisions between the rich and poor’ ”, 4 September) says: “If you want less segregation, do not have different types of schools.”

Ingenious! Abolish choice and, miraculously, we’re back to the good old days of everyone, instead of just a majority, attending a bad school.

Why stop with schools? I propose banning Waitrose on the grounds that doing so would decrease segregation in the aisles of Lidl  and Aldi.

The real issue is whether giving parents more choice raises standards of education in an area. If that is the case (and it would come as a surprise to the parents who move heaven and earth to get their kids into selective schools if it did not), we would then be in a position to debate whether increased segregation is a price worth paying for increasing median educational attainment and shifting the distribution towards higher attainment.

Tom Mitchell, Corsham, Wiltshire


Bombard Syria  with gas masks

If the West is serious about helping the Syrian people, perhaps we should drop a million gas masks over the city of Damascus. If some fell into the wrong hands, it would not matter but could prevent further mass murder by poison gas.

Chris Tomlinson, South Wootton, Norfolk


Kennedy beats Obama

I have to disagree with Bruce Anderson’s assertion (6 September) that “Yes we can” was the best presidential slogan since “I like Ike”. Surely John F Kennedy’s question, offered to voters beneath a picture of Richard Nixon, of “Would you buy a used car from this man?” beats them all?

Vaughan Thomas, Usk, Monmouthshire


Lack of attention

Never having attended a full council meeting in any other authority than Middlesbrough, I decided to attend the recent one in Redcar and Cleveland where the motion of no confidence in the leader, Councillor George Dunning, was to be discussed.

A teenage girl next to me pointed out that one councillor was texting, and I noticed he was also reading a book for a lot of the time. The title of the book appeared to be None Of Them Were Heroes – clearly, he thought it more interesting to read than to listen to the discussion. What sort of an impression does this give to the public?

JOAN McTIGUE, Independent Councillor, Middlesbrough


Nyad the Naiad

Some may have noted the appropriateness of the surname of Diana Nyad (give or take a letter or two), who swam from Cuba to Florida. In Greek mythology, the Naiads were a type of nymph who presided over various types of water, including fountains, springs, streams and brooks. Perhaps the great swimmer’s name indicates she was  fated to achieve some great  aquatic feat.

James Carleton Paget, Fellow and Tutor of Peterhouse, Cambridge

Burning question

With reference to the architect of the “Walkie Talkie” building  saying that he planned to “respect the city’s historic character”,  I hope that he wasn’t referring to the Great Fire of London.

Helen Muller, Romford