RICHARD LITTLEJOHN: These crazy prison rules on alcohol and sex get my goat, Fletcher
Prisoners will soon be able to drink alcohol and have sex in their cells without facing disciplinary charges, under new guidelines from the Ministry of Justice.
They will also escape punishment for assaulting other inmates and absconding, provided they can come up with a reasonable excuse.
The revised rules are contained in an 87-page manual for prison governors. In recent years, ministers have introduced a series of measures to make life behind bars more tolerable.
Last night we learned jails are to get photo booths so that prisoners can have snaps taken with their families.
Prisoners will soon be able to drink alcohol and have sex in their cells without facing disciplinary charges, under new guidelines from the Ministry of Justice
This latest gimmick comes on top of painting walls pink, installing telephones in cells and allowing inmates to stroke pet goats.
To assess the impact, we cross to Slade Prison, where Norman Stanley Fletcher is relaxing on his bunk . . .
Good morning, Mr Mackay.
What’s good about it, Fletcher?
And a Happy New Year to you, too. How was your holiday? Two weeks in a caravan at Culloden with Mrs Mackay? Bit of a Highland fling, know what I mean?
That’s enough of your cheek, Fletcher. I can tell from your insolent attitude that things have been slipping in my absence.
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Next time, would you mind knocking before you come barging into my cell?
I beg your pardon.
Well, for instance, I could have been having sex.
A one-in-a-bed romp, I suppose.
No need to be vulgar, Mr Mackay. It’s all down here in black and white.
Where? What’s that you’re reading?
It’s the latest guidelines from the Ministry of Justice, all 87 pages of them. According to this, prisoners are allowed to have sex with each other without fear of being punished by some nosey screw.
Poppycock. Let me see that.
Here you are, Mr Mackay. Page 43, paragraph four, subsection 12(b). If prisoners are in a relationship, they have, and I quote, a ‘reasonable expectation of privacy’ and are free to have sexual relations provided it doesn’t offend other inmates or occurs in a public place.
Last night we learned jails are to get photo booths so that prisoners can have snaps taken with their families. Stock image
I’m assuming they’re talking about the shower block or the recreation room. That would put you right off your stroke if you happened to be playing ping-pong at the time.
This is ridiculous. Since when did prisoners have a reasonable expectation of privacy?
Search me, Mr Mackay. I don’t make the rules.
(Brrring, brrring . . .)
Hang on, that’ll be the phone.
Yes, BT put them in every cell over Christmas. David Gauke, the Justice Secretary, thought it would be a good idea, to help us keep in touch with friends and family on the outside, without getting into punch-ups while having to queue for the communal phone. He also reckons it will stop mobiles being smuggled in.
Fat chance of that.
(Brrring, brrring . . .)
I better answer that, Mr Mackay, it could be important. Hello? Oh, Lennie, it’s you. Where are you? Tenerife? With our Ingrid? What’s the weather like?
Who are you talking to, Fletcher?
Young Godber. He’s having a winter sunshine break with my daughter.
Bit of compassionate leave. He got a 48-hour pass on Boxing Day.
But it’s January. He should have been back here by now. Don’t tell me he’s absconded. You wait till I get my hands on him. He’ll be in solitary for a month.
Steady on, Mr Mackay. You can’t do that any more, not according to the new guidelines.
It says here that prisoners what abscond should not be punished if they claim to have forgot when they were due to return.
But he’s in Tenerife, damn it.
Time flies when you’re having fun, Mr Mackay, unlike in here. And I’m sure Lennie will be back in good time for the opening of the petting zoo. He loves animals.
What are you talking about?
The new Slade Prison petting zoo. They’ve already got one at HMP Swaleside, in Kent. Inmates with personality disorders and mental health problems are being encouraged to care for pet goats and miniature horses. Stroking animals has a therapeutic effect, by all accounts. I’m thinking of getting a goat myself.
This latest gimmick comes on top of painting walls pink, installing telephones in cells and allowing inmates to stroke pet goats. Stock image
Have you been drinking. Fletcher?
Just a couple of gentle tinctures, Mr Mackay. Genial Harry Grout was kind enough to give me a bottle of Glennhoddle single malt from his private stock for Christmas. Recognition of favours rendered. Would you like a wee dram?
Certainly not. I’m on duty, and you’re drunk.
Not drunk, Mr Mackay, merely exuberant. You can’t touch me for it.
Merely exuberant? What’s that supposed to mean?
I refer you again to the new Ministry of Justice guidelines. Inmates who have been drinking should avoid disciplinary action if they are ‘merely exuberant but still manageable’.
Ok, I suppose you’re still manageable. But don’t push your luck.
Mind you, there’s merely exuberant and then there’s exuberant.
Come again ?
Well, for instance. McLaren got a bit more exuberant than most on New Year’s Eve. You Jocks can get a bit carried away at Hogmanay.
He got into a barney with one of the nonces on E-wing. Ended up throwing him off the landing.
That’ll put five years on his sentence.
Not as such, Mr Mackay. He was let off.
Don’t tell me. Ministry of Justice guidelines.
The very same. He claimed to be acting in self-defence. Says the nonce racially abused him. And under the new rules, self-defence is, well, an absolute defence, innit?
I can only assume whoever came up with that crazy idea must have been . . .
Anyway, Mr Mackay, do you like the new decor? Takes a bit of getting used to.
I thought there was something different.
The revised rules are contained in an 87-page manual for prison governors. In recent years, ministers have introduced a series of measures to make life behind bars more tolerable. Stock image
They sent in the decorators while you was away to paint the cell walls pink.
I wondered why you were wearing sunglasses indoors.
They reckon it will have a calming effect. Not that it did much for McLaren. The transwossnames seem to like it, though.
One of them was moved here while you was away. They’ve put him in with Lukewarm.
What are you talking about?
A prisoner who defines as a woman was transferred to Slade after sexually assaulting two female inmates at a women’s prison. Although he is legally still a man, on account of possessing a full set of wedding tackle, he was originally placed in an all-women’s nick because he defines as female.
What’s he doing here now, then?
He’s considered a danger to women prisoners, so they decided he’d be better off in a male jail. Lukewarm was quite excited about getting a new cellmate until he found out this one defined as a woman. He would have preferred someone who defined as a man.
And what are we supposed to do with him?
Dunno, but he won’t be here for long. He’s put in for a sex-change operation, so he can transfer back to a women’s prison.
This is madness, Fletcher. I don’t suppose you’ve still got some of that single malt left?
Certainly, Mr Mackay.
Make it a large one.
You planning to get exuberant?
As a newt, Fletcher. As a newt.
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