I may have given the impression in my rant the other day that I didn’t care about prison conditions. In fact I received a long and thoughtful email from a reader expressing disappointment with some of the views expressed.
Let me make it clear that I became acutely aware of prison conditions at a young age. I experienced them at very close quarters and in 1970s Glasgow they were grim indeed. Sewing and lettering mailbags was no urban legend. That was what many inmates had to do for their 25p per week.
Some of the more resourceful ones would blag ink from that job so that they could top up their ballpoint pens and therefore write more letters home to loved ones.
Visiting was one hour per week.
There was a culture of beatings by prison officers on inmates.
And I’m acutely aware too that there were many injustices. At that time a safe blower called Johnny Ramenski was in Barlinnie as an elderly man. British intelligence had used him and his skills during the second world war but he was quickly forgotten and abandoned when his heroism and risk taking were no longer needed.
Fortunately conditions and culture have improved in many ways since then.
I perhaps got a bit carried away with my remarks about Nat Fraser, but the fact that there are many people who really should never have seen the inside of prison walls threw the Fraser case into sharp focus for me.
On this father’s day I hope sincerely that prison conditions continue to improve.