Prison red tape hampers rehabilitation

These letters appear in the 11th February edition of The Independent

The Prime Minister has to be congratulated for making the first major speech by a premier on our prison system for decades. 

I am particularly pleased that he recognised the vital role that employment can play in preventing re-offending. Mosaic’s offender mentoring programme, alongside  other similar schemes, has a big role in connecting offenders with employers. 

As a former civil servant, I am loath to criticise my former colleagues. However, my experience of trying to scale up our offender mentoring programme to meet the ever-increasing need has led me to the sad conclusion that the prison system has been designed around administrative convenience rather than to serve its purpose as a rehabilitation agency.  

Mosaic has over 100 trained volunteer mentors ready to support offenders in prison prior to their release, yet we cannot match them. Prisons want our volunteers to help but the system makes it enormously difficult for them to find the staff time to facilitate access to the offenders wanting our help, let alone navigating around the alphabet soup of agencies who have to be consulted before anyone can start helping.

If the promised freedoms for prison governors to make local decisions announced by the Prime Minister can cut through the current stultifying bureaucracy, no one will be more pleased than us at Mosaic. If, however, these changes mean that we have to continue to negotiate separate arrangements with each prison to enable our support to be used – arrangements which then have to be re-negotiated each time a new governor arrives – then I fear that we will be no farther forward. 

Jonathan Freeman

Managing Director


London N1


An unborn child  has rights too

My daughter was born at 27 weeks. She weighed just 2lbs and looked very fragile. She had a thick crop of hair and eyelashes, and over the next two weeks she would look at me with an intense gaze, responding physically to sound and to touch. She remained in hospital for eight weeks until she was well enough to come home. She is now 18 and a beautiful, resilient girl, starting university.

I wouldn’t wish on anyone the emotional rollercoaster of being a parent of a premature baby, but it did enable me to view first hand the development of a baby from 27 weeks, normally unseen in the womb.

Speak to any parent of a premature baby born after 22 weeks: they will tell you that it isn’t an unfeeling foetus that they’ve given birth to; it is a unique, sensitive and responsive baby, already a “person”. 

It is why I was concerned to read your article (9 January) about the We Trust Women campaign, which maintains that women shouldn’t face prosecution if they self-induce abortion of their unborn child, even through third trimester up until term. 

I am also a feminist. I believe that women should be allowed the same rights and opportunities as men. But this isn’t just an issue of a woman’s rights or choice. Another life is involved, another life with rights to protect.

The advocates of this campaign call the current legislation against women aborting “cruel and archaic”. It’s certainly not cruel to the voiceless and defenceless unborn child it protects.

Pippa Jones

London SE1 


Jeremy Hunt’s real target

No one appears to have identified the real reason for Jeremy Hunt’s intransigence regarding junior doctors’ payments for unsocial hours.

The target is not the junior doctors. If the doctors can be persuaded, coerced or bribed to accept the new terms then every other group of NHS workers will be targeted and will lose most, if not all, of their unsocial hours payments in the next pay round. This will include nurses, paramedics, porters and kitchen staff – the people who provide the seven-day NHS that Jeremy Hunt chooses to believe does not currently exist.

Be assured: there will be no compensating pay rises offered to them. Every NHS workers’ group should be on the picket lines with the junior doctors – because they are the real targets.

Ray Noy



My birthplace gets its name back 

Thank you for your sensible decision to drop the style “Mumbai” and return to “Bombay”. I was born in Bombay, where my parents were living, both working away from their homes in England. I’m white English but India beats in my heart.  

For people like me, one of the most difficult questions to answer is, “Where are you from?” It seems disingenuous to say that I’m from India; I am not Indian. But I’m not from England, either. I was, however, born in Bombay when it was called Bombay, and that is a historical fact.  

When I renewed my passport in 2011, face to face with an official, the name I used for the place of my birth was crossed out with vigour.  “It’s Mumbai now,” I was told. It wasn’t Mumbai when I was born. I hope others follow The Independent’s lead to recognise the facts, not the political correctness of a decision made in 1995 – 40 years after I was born.  

To eradicate the location of my birth from my life, for what seems to me to be a jobsworth perspective, denies me my heritage.

Joanna Biddolph

London W3


The colossal folly of trident

Matthew Norman (10 February) is right about the colossal folly of Trident. The world has changed almost beyond recognition since the Cold War. The money would be far better spent on just about anything, or even just saved to pay down the deficit.

How about the workers who fear for their jobs being more usefully employed in the manufacture of green energy projects, thus helping to save the planet twice?

How about the New Labour Blairites resigning and joining the Conservative Party where they will feel much more at home?

Andrew Lowdon



Matthew Norman’s arguments for getting rid of Trident seem arbitrary and hard to prove – as are all the arguments for and against Trident, to be fair. However, his arguments do raise the following questions.

If we did not renew Trident, would it be because we know we could rely on the USA to provide a nuclear deterrence to intimidation by nuclear powers like Russia or North Korea? If that is the case we would be failing to carry our fair share of the deterrence that protects us. 

Alternatively, do we think it is safe for the USA to also give up its nuclear weapons and hope we can rely on countries like North Korea and Russia not to use the threat of nuclear weapons to intimidate us and the West generally? 

Bob Morgan

Thatcham, West Berkshire


Wrong message  from the bench

Bijan Ebrahimi was the innocent victim of a cruel vigilante murder by a neighbour (report, 10 February). He made numerous telephone calls to the police for help. When an officer did ultimately appear he spent only a couple of minutes there but later lied to investigators that he had been patrolling for an hour. There was the plainest dereliction of duty by the two police officers who were on trial.

The judge, Neil Ford QC, stated that it was with “a heavy heart” that he was imposing custodial sentences: “You have already suffered greatly. You have already lost your careers and in each of your cases there is genuine justification for mercy.”  

Mr Ebrahimi had lost his life, not simply his job. The officers did not deserve sympathy. The judge was sending out quite the wrong message and what he should have said was, “You each justly deserve a proper custodial sentence.”

David Ashton

Shipbourne, Kent


Caught in the headlights

I have noticed this winter that being dazzled by oncoming vehicles has become more of a problem. A television advert has revealed why. 

The advert sets out the advantages of the modern high-power lighting system. Its brilliance is considered a selling feature. The latest advert trumpets that its “super bright LED matrix lights shine further than you think”. Yes they do, at the expense of oncoming drivers.

Anthony O Wilkinson



Who decides on Europe?

David Cameron, dragooned by Ukip and the endless trumpeting of Nigel Farage into promising an in/out referendum on Europe on the grounds that the people demanded it, is now exhorting his MPs to ignore the wishes of their constituents. MPs should follow their own instincts, he advises.

Can our Prime Minister have overlooked the fact that it will not be the MPs but we, the plebs who are supposed to have demanded this right, who have the responsibility to take this momentous decision?

David Hindmarsh