Work on a Sunday?

I really shouldn’t be doing this. I made a deal with myself that I’d have at least one day off each week. Now, here I am Sunday morning, firing up the word machine to indulge in a little sneaky writing while the sausages are smouldering under the grill.

I’m new to this blogging lark. Before, my innermost thoughts were confined to notebooks or the odd scrap of paper. Now, the wonders of technology means that my ramblings can go public before I’ve barely had the chance to edit them! And what gives me the right to wax lyrical with such abandon? I’m not an intellectual. I didn’t go to Oxford or Cambridge. I’m a simple working class lad with a love of words, who dipped into such luminaries as Burroughs and Camus, while most of my peers were busy burgling houses.

Crime. One of my earliest obsessions was the underworld. Having just read Razor Smith’s A Few Kind Words and a Loaded Gun, my interest has been reawakened. Most definitely not for the faint hearted. This is one man’s tale of crime and punishment and the long term cost to both the individual and the tax-payer. Mr Smith’s message is compelling. The prison system does not work. Deprivation and brutality are not the best conditions for character building. Most reformers think prison is the soft option. This book will dispel them of that erroneous conclusion. Spend time in any closed institution and you soon develop a disconcerting sense of claustrophobia. Your liberty, perhaps the most precious and fundamental of your human rights, has been taken away. You exist entirely at the behest of a panel of ‘experts’ whose understanding of your plight is based upon third-hand reports from people who barely know you. The argument that criminals bring these conditions on themselves is a fair one. But is there an alternative to incarceration? As one wise old English Master once remarked – ‘With what do you replace the system?’ Perhaps greater education is the answer. Instead of the Us and Them mentality that helps no-one, we need to look into the reasons people commit crime with greater insight. One thing’s for certain, treat a man like an animal and he’ll react accordingly.

Perhaps the most inspiring record of extreme deprivation comes from Viktor Frankl, who survived Auschwitz. Stripped of all personal possessions, including the shoes on his feet, he concluded that the only choice he had left was his attitude. Razor Smith turned his back on a life of crime because of a heartbreaking personal tragedy. But the reasons themselves don’t matter. The overwhelming evidence is that people can and do change. Sometimes it takes great upheaval but the opportunities are there for each and every one of us. When change is a prerequisite for survival, the transition is often quite dramatic. Prison is a metaphor for mental slavery. Freedom is the state of mind we’re all looking for.

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