Monday, September 18, 2006


A prisoner has publicly condemned fellow inmates for their "constant bleating" about human rights. Stephen Hardy, who confesses to having spent extended periods of time at Her Majesty's pleasure, won 25 pounds for "star letter of the month" in a prisoners' newspaper with his withering attack on the petty complaints made by his fellow convicts. The letters page of Inside Time, produced by the offenders' charity, New Bridge, is a popular forum for prisoners to air their grievances, many of which hinge on human rights issues. But Hardy reminisces about the "good old days" in prisons when "you had no rights apart from a surname and a number". He points out that prison is a means of punishment and insists that prisoners should pay the price for their crimes.

He writes: "Whenever I've gone out and robbed somebody I didn't read my victims the human rights charter. It was entirely my choice and I've got to pay the price. In case prisoners are scratching their heads wondering where I'm coming from, the operative word is `responsibility'. "So far as human rights are concerned, stick 'em."

Another letter in this month's edition relates to the way in which an inmate tried to use human rights laws to stop prison officers opening letters from his lawyers. But Hardy continues: "Every prison I've been in (and it's a fair few), all I ever seem to hear is this constant bleating about `my human rights', be it due to the food being either too hot or too cold, an officer didn't refer to me as `Mr' or whatever other petty complaints yet another mundane day of incarceration can throw up. "This is now becoming far more commonplace than the other weary old chestnut, `I didn't do it'. Prisoners tend to conveniently forget why they are locked up and forget too the rights of the victims they created."

The writer, who is serving his sentence at the medium-security Albany prison in the Isle of Wight, adds: "In the `good old days' in prison you had no rights apart from a surname and a number. If the food was bad (and trust me it was) or there was some other problem about which we had no rights, then we had a riot - no paperwork, no request/complaints - just a good, old-fashioned punch-up followed on frequent occasions by a good kicking."

John Bowers, the commissioning editor at Inside Time, said: "You can't get a more contentious view than this from a prisoner. It is really the last thing you would expect coming from a prisoner. It will lead to a debate, that's for sure. "This letter will be read, it will be hotly disputed and I expect several irate letters from other prisoners saying, `What the hell is this Stephen Hardy on about?' Every prisoner who reads it will either think it's a load of old rubbish or may even think he's got a point."

Mark Leech, editor of The Prisons Handbook, said: "I find it ironic that Mr Hardy is pooh-poohing human rights by writing a letter to a newspaper - something inmates can only do because they have used human rights arguments to win that right. There was a time when inmates were banned from writing about their prison conditions. "I wonder if he'll send his 25 pound prize to Victim Support?"

Hardy ends his letter by insisting: "I'll do my bird (again) and if I return to prison in the next decade perhaps we'll have plasma screen TVs, access to the internet and all manner of privileges; after all, we wouldn't want our human rights infringed by denying us access to everything we desire in order to be `treated like human beings' would we?" The newspaper also includes an article by Jonathan King, the pop impresario who served three years of a seven year sentence for sex offences, bemoaning the fact that when he arrived at Belmarsh in 2001, there was no in-cell television or electricity.


Skewed views of crime

Do higher rates of imprisonment reduce crime? Is crime a result of poverty, unemployment, and the like? Are alternatives to incarceration more effective in preventing criminals from repeating their crimes? Some people would hesitate to try to answer any of these questions before going through a lot of hard evidence and thinking it over very carefully. But many on the left can answer immediately because they know what answers are already in vogue on the left -- and the only reason others don't accept those answers is that they are behind the times or just hardhearted people who want to punish.

It is one thing to believe policy A is better than policy B. It is something very different to believe those who believe in policy A are wiser, more compassionate, and generally worthier human beings than those who believe in policy B. Turning the empirical question of the results of policy A versus the results of policy B into the more personal question of a wonderful Us versus a terrible Them makes it harder to retreat if the facts do not bear out the belief. If the choice between policy A and policy B is regarded as a badge of personal merit, either morally or intellectually, it is a devastating risk to one's sense of self to make empirical evidence the ultimate test.

Not only in the United States, but in other countries as well, the political left has held steadfastly to its assumptions and beliefs about crime for at least two centuries, not only in the absence of hard evidence but in defiance of two centuries' accumulation of evidence to the contrary, from countries around the world. Where the dominance of the left is greatest -- in the media and in academia, for example -- facts to the contrary are seldom heard.

The futility of imprisonment, for example, is a dogma on the left. It does no good to point out crime rates in both Britain and the U.S. soared during the 1960s when poverty rates were going down -- and imprisonment rates were also going down. It does no good to point out that soaring crime rates in the United States began to turn down only after the declining rate of imprisonment was halted and reversed, leading to a rising prison population much deplored by liberals. It does no good to point out Singapore's imprisonment rate is more than double that of Canada -- and its crime rate less than one-tenth the Canadian crime rate. Many in the West were appalled to discover some years ago that an American first offender in Singapore was sentenced to corporal punishment. Few of the indignant critics bothered to consider the possibility this might be a way to prevent the young man from becoming a second offender -- and perhaps saving him from a worse fate later on if he continued to disregard laws.

Self-defense against criminals is anathema to the left in both Britain and the United States. But in Britain the left has greater predominance. Britons who have caught burglars in their homes and held them at gunpoint until the police arrived have found themselves charged with a crime -- even when using only a toy gun. Given the prevailing view in the British criminal justice system that burglary is a "minor" offense and the fierce hostility to guns, even toy guns, the homeowner is far likelier than is the burglar to end up behind bars.

The left's jihad against gun ownership by law-abiding citizens has produced a flood of distorted information. The U.S. is almost invariably compared with some country with stronger gun control laws and lower murder rates. But if facts really mattered, you could just as easily compare the U.S. to countries with stronger gun control laws and higher murder rates -- Brazil and Russia, for example. You could compare the United States with countries with more widespread gun ownership -- Switzerland and Israel, for example -- and lower murder rates. But that's only if facts are regarded as more important than the dogmas of the left. Millions of crime victims pay the price of the left's illusions about crime -- and about themselves.


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