Thursday, 31 January 2013

Some Observations 12

Another potpouri of bits and pieces that don't quite warrant a whole post to themselves. First off is something I heard on the radio a week or so back. I'm not usually near a radio for the Jeremy Vine show on Radio 2, thankfully I have to say as I find the format extremely irritating. Anyway, Jeremy found himself somewhat nervously interviewing ex madam Becky Adams about her plans to open a brothel for disabled people in 2014. 

Judging from her website and media appearances, Becky is an extremely savvy business woman with an eye to the main chance shall we say, but I think she's definitely on to something serious with Para-Doxies. I've been concerned about people with learning disabilities in the criminal justice system getting a raw deal for some time. There is a particular issue in relation to sex offending, but also a more general one concerning help for the learning disabled in being able to appropriately express themselves sexually and locate suitable sex partners. 

In my experience agencies such as social services and hostels find the subject too difficult to address and therefore try and ignore it, but with Becky's deliberately provocative proposals for linking up sex workers with the disabled, I see some sign of hope. The whole thing brings back memories of the wonderful Cynthia Payne and her tussles with authority over the 'sex for luncheon voucher' parties back in the 70's when elderly gentlemen were given discounts if they couldn't perform, but preferred to watch instead. 

According to 'Inside Time', the Parole Board are anxious to hear prisoners views of the Parole system and have posted survey forms to each prison in England and Wales. Given the backlog of cases and consequent delays in arranging Oral Hearings of late, some of the responses are likely to be robust I'd have thought. Of course this IPP prisoner has just won damages at the European Court in relation to delays in dealing with his case. 

Not all delays are the fault of the Parole Board though. I heard of an instance recently when an Oral Hearing could not proceed because the prisoner discovered on the day that his solicitor had sacked him and had sent a substitute lawyer instead. Very poor practice in my view which left the prisoner seriously disadvantaged and understandably unwilling to proceed.

I see that the other prisoners' newspaper 'Converse' is claiming the credit for persuading the Parliamentary Justice Committee to hold a full enquiry into the increasing number of elderly prisoners within the prison system. This is a subject long overdue for scrutiny and I'm sure it will serve to concentrate the government's mind on having to provide secure supported accommodation instead of allowing this sad group to languish indefinitely within the prison estate. Just what the Justice Minister wants to hear - a good reason to spend more money, not less. The committee are calling for evidence and the deadline is 8th March. 

Finally, I think the following wise words from Stan Cohen who died recently are worth quoting:-

‘In practice and theory, stay “unfinished”. Don’t be ashamed of working for short-term humanitarian or libertarian goals, but always keep in mind the long-term political prospects. This might mean living with the uncomfortable ambiguity that your most radical work will be outside your day-to-day job’ (Stan Cohen in 1975)

Renowned for developing the concept of 'moral panic' his passing got me thinking about the riots in 2011 and Geof Pearsons' book 'Hooligan : A History of Respectable Fears'. I was at Bradford when it was published in 1983 and really wish now that I'd been rather more attentive during his lectures. This classic work meticulously catalogues periodic panics about youth behaviour over several centuries.

Anyway, somewhat belatedly, I was wondering what he would have made of the amazing events during the summer of 2011 and I discover that he was indeed interviewed for the New Left Project later that year. He confirms that it's nothing new - in fact just as he'd said previously in 2006 when we were again concerned with youth crime.    

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