Criminology, probation and stuff

Some musings on criminology with a focus on probation

Prisoners and the internet

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Two distinctly different stories which revolve around the same issue reveals a gap in the MoJ’s reaction to prisoner access to the internet. The first is that of Prisoner Ben and the second is the ‘Thug who murdered father of three boasts about his ‘cushy’ life inside prison on Facebook’.

Prisoner Ben started his blog in August and by September the Prison Service was making serious attempts to stop him from publishing by stopping the posts from leaving prison (he writes his posts and then posts them to friends who then upload them for him). Although you may disagree with Ben’s position on what it means to say sorry, or believe that it is right that he is still in prison despite being 20 years over his tariff doesn’t really matter- what matters is that he is trying to engage with the community outside prison- this could improve his chances of resettlement as well as inform the general public about what it is actually like in prison.

Mark Elliot, on the other hand, also has access to the internet but he can access it directly from prison through his mobile phone. Apparently, he is content to update his status with illuminating comments such as ‘U would love jail u could play ya computer all day long’ which does nothing but aggravate victims and the general public. (Just for interest, Prisoner Ben disagrees with Mark.) The Prison Service says it is unable to do anything about it as it cannot delete the account from Facebook. Fair enough. But couldn’t it confiscate his phone? After all, it read Ben’s letters and decided that they weren’t suitable to be distributed on the internet.

Shouldn’t the prison service start to seriously think about how prisoners can use the internet in a meaningful and productive way? It is clearly much more able to stop old-style media from leaving prison than digital media and so there appears to be a need to catch up with the time. More importantly, however, instead of trying to ban everyone (in some cases, clearly, ineffectually) shouldn’t we be encouraging both prisoners and non-prisoners to engage with eachother? After all, by bridging the gap between these two different groups of people through the internet (where the potential for harm can be mediated) we can maybe get some way towards restoration, understanding and appreciation of other people’s circumstance.

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Written by criminologyandstuff

September 29, 2009 at 1:39 pm

Posted in media, Prisons

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