Category Archives: prison sentences (fake)

Britain’s festival of disorder

Poor man! If only he had been given the opportunity of rehabilitation and repentance, perhaps he wouldn’t have taken the cyanide

In Britain, one of the effects of the abolition of the death penalty has been downward pressure on prison sentences. Your average British murderer, Dalrymple explains,

serves 15 years before release. His life sentence is for life only in the sense that, for the rest of his days, he may be recalled to prison if it is thought that he is misbehaving or breaking the conditions of his release.

In one per cent of cases,

a life sentence may mean permanent incarceration without possibility of release, though the European Court of Human Rights (that giver of lessons to the world) has ruled that such a sentence breaches fundamental human rights because it does not allow for the possibility of repentance or rehabilitation. It goes to show how lacking in realism, imagination and compassion the ECHR is.

Dalrymple points out that punishment has to be roughly proportional to the gravity of the crime, but

if murder attracts only 15 years’ imprisonment de facto, what sentences can be meted out to those who commit lesser, but still serious, crimes? Moreover, the charge of murder is often reduced to the lesser crime of manslaughter, in which sentences – as a consequence – are often derisory.

It is scarcely any wonder, he says, that Britain

has gone from being a well-ordered, non-violent, law-abiding society to being a society with the highest rate of violent crime in Western Europe.

He notes that

it was not inevitable that the abolition of the death penalty should have had this effect, if conviction for murder had carried a sentence of incarceration for life. But in order for this to have been the case, society as a whole, and the governing class in particular, including intellectuals, would have had to have sufficient faith in a moral authority to impose it. The abolition itself, in my view justified per se, was — in the manner in which it was carried out — a symptom in itself of the decline in that faith.

The governing class and intellectuals

believed only in their own moral authority to defy the ‘primitive’ wishes and apprehensions of the unlettered majority. They replaced the moral view of human existence by the sociological and psychological one, with all its explaining and explaining away.

Why we read and re-read the doctor-essayist

Dalrymple is identified by an acute English journalist (also a skilled and powerful debater), Peter Hitchens, as

one of the greatest men of our age [second item in Hitchens’s 6th August 2017 column in the UK newspaper the Mail on Sunday].

For decades, Hitchens reminds us, Dalrymple

worked in a major British jail, listening to the excuses and self-justifications of people who had done terrible things to others, and to themselves.

Refusing to follow fashion,

and genuinely concerned for these often very sad characters, he treated them as adults, urging them to take responsibility for their actions instead of offering excuses for them. Many, who had come to despise authority, were glad to be up against someone they could not easily fool.

Hitchens’s guess is that many of those Dalrymple treated

benefited greatly from his tough-minded approach. He didn’t fill them with pills or substitute one drug for another. His observations of the way heroin abusers feign terrible discomfort, after arriving in prison and being deprived of their drug, is both funny and a badly needed corrective to conventional wisdom.

All this, Hitchens notes, is to be found in the Dalrymple collection The Knife Went In (2017).

The title, a quotation from an actual murderer, is an example of the way such people refuse to admit they had any part in the crimes they commit. The knife somehow got there and went into the victim, by itself. It is a series of short, gripping real-life stories in which he recounts his experiences with our broken, lying penal system with its fake prison sentences and its ridiculous form-filling as a substitute for action.

The book is mainly about prisons and crime, but, says Hitchens,

it tells a deep truth about the sort of society we have become. It is one in which almost nobody is, or wants to be, responsible for anything.

Hitchens concludes:

A future historian, a century hence, will learn more about 21st-century Britain from this book than from any official document.