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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: prison, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 17 of 17
1. 10 interesting facts about criminal justice

And what is the best way to ensure an easy transition for offenders that are about to be released? Julian Roberts, author of Criminal Justice: A Very Short Introduction, tells us the top 10 things everyone should know about criminal justice, and what the chances and limitations of the Western system are.

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2. Austerity and the prison

Greece is not alone in suffering from budget cuts arising from the era of austerity. In the UK, local councils, libraries, museums – all public services have been cut. Criminal Justice has not escaped this cost-cutting. The consequence has been fewer police officers on the streets, less money for legal aid lawyers, and closures of Magistrates courts.

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3. Should we let them play?

Ched Evans was convicted at Caernarfon Crown Court in April 2012 of raping a 19 year old woman, and sentenced to five years in prison. He was released from prison in October 2014. Shortly after his release Evans protested his innocence and suggested that his worst offence had been cheating on his fiancée. He also looked to restart his career as a professional soccer player in the third tier of the English league with his former club Sheffield United. What has ensued is a huge debate about whether the club should offer Evans a new contract. One side argues that Evans has served his time and should be allowed to continue his career, whereas the other claims that his role as a professional sportsman marks him out as a role model for his local community and the youngsters that support his team. A rape conviction they say is not compatible with the standards that society demands from its sports stars.

The debate in England over Evans is nothing new. In the US the National Football League (NFL) has had a personal conduct policy in place since 1997. This allows the NFL to take action against any player convicted of a domestic abuse offence including suspensions and fines. Similarly in Australian Rules Football (AFL) the governing body introduced its Respect and Responsibility programme in 2005 to educate players about violence against women. The problem in all these cases, indeed a difficulty for most branches of the sporting world, is that the big box office draws are highly paid male athletes operating out of dressing rooms that are hyper masculine and underpinned by an atmosphere of sexual aggression. As the star players are vital to the industry and ensure that box office receipts and television income remain high, the governing authorities of many male team sports have been slow to act decisively in cases where players have been charged or convicted of rape or domestic abuse. Since the start of the new millennium 48 NFL players have been found guilty of domestic abuse. In 88% of the cases the NFL either banned the player for a single game or else took no action. Similarly the AFL has been slow to take action against players. In the last two years players at the St Kilda Saints and North Melbourne clubs were charged with rape, and in both cases the clubs and the AFL stated that the players would remain available for selection and on full salaries prior to their trials.

ched
Ched Evans representing Wales in 2009. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

It is clear that the male sporting world has not taken the issue of violence against women seriously. Clubs and managers that demand a strong dressing room, where loyalty to the team is paramount and aggression is part of the game has create a masculine environment where women cannot be respected. In a sporting world where those players are then highly paid, cosseted by their management and agents, women have little function beyond their sexual availability.

The debate in the US around the case of NFL player Ray Rice, who was caught on camera punching his partner unconscious, and that of Ched Evans in England, have piled pressure on clubs and governing bodies to take the issues of sexual and domestic violence by players seriously. In the Ched Evans case the Sheffield born gold medal winning athlete, Jessica Ennis-Hill, stated that if Evans was offered a contract by the club she would ask that her name be removed from the stand that was named after her when she won her Olympic title in 2012. Ennis-Hill stated that ‘those in positions of influence should respect the role’s they play in young people’s lives and set a good example’. And herein lies the whole contradiction around the issue of male sports stars and their attitudes towards sexual and domestic violence.

Modern sport had its roots in Victorian Britain, and would spread around the world in various forms. No matter what type of sport emerged in any given setting across the globe the Victorian obsession that sport had an ethical ethos of fair play and gentlemanly conduct was hard wired into the meaning that society gave sport. As a result contemporary sport is supposed to be played in the right way in accordance with the rules, and athletes are supposed to conduct themselves in a certain way. To be an elite athlete is to be a role model and society expects athletes to display positive attributes on and off the field of play. But why should society expect that athletes, often from the lower end of the socio-economic spectrum and with poor educational attainment, to behave like some form of idealised Victorian gentleman? However, as the sports star is expected to be the model citizen, because the ethics of sport are so deeply embedded in the collective consciousness, their conduct does matter. It matters to many followers of sport, is of interest to the media, and is increasingly becoming important to sponsors as they assess the value of any team or athlete in terms that stretch beyond their success on the field of play.

This is why sports teams and governing bodies will have to start taking firm action against those found guilty of sexual and domestic violence. Guilty players will have to be banned from the game and lose their chance of earning their fortune. Not only will this send a clear message to players that violence against women in unacceptable, it will also shape the thinking of the generation of young boys who see their sporting heroes as role models. If, in the future, they see players who respect women, then male attitudes will improve across society. Those who govern the world of male professional sport have to realise that they administer not simply their games, but they are also responsible for the meaningful creation of men with positive values who can act, in the best ways, as role models.

Featured image credit: “Blades”, by Kopii90 (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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4. Why do prison gangs exist?

By David Skarbek


On 11 April 2013, inmate Calvin Lee stabbed and beat inmate Javaughn Young to death in a Maryland prison. They were both members of the Bloods, a notorious gang active in the facility. The day before Lee killed Young, Young and an accomplice had stabbed Lee three times in the head and neck. They did so because Lee refused to accept the punishment that his gang ordered against him for breaking “gang rules.” Lee didn’t report his injuries to officials. Instead, he waited until the next day and killed Young in retribution.

While this might seem to provide evidence that gangs are inherently violent, that’s not so. The story is more complicated. Gangs enforce a variety of rules that they design to establish order. Lee violated these rules by giving his cellmate—who had a dispute with a rival gang—a knife. Many inmates would see this as encouraging violence, which gangs seek to control. The situation provides a glimpse at a major role played by prison gangs. They don’t form to promote chaos, but to limit spontaneous acts of violence.

Many people are surprised to learn about the extent to which gangs regulate inmate life. Not only do many inmates feel they must join a gang, but gangs even issue written rules about appropriate social conduct. These include who you may eat lunch with, which shower to use, who may cut your hair, and where and when violence is acceptable. One gang gives new inmates a written list of 28 rules to follow. Many gangs even require new inmates to provide a letter of introduction from gang members at other prisons. Moreover, gangs also encourage cooperation within their group by relying on elaborate written constitutions. These often include elections, checks and balances, and impeachment procedures.

Fence and lights. © JordiDelgado via iStockphoto.

Fence and lights. © JordiDelgado via iStockphoto.

Besides setting rules, prison gangs promote social order by adjudicating conflict. Inmates can’t turn to officials to provide this when dealing in illicit goods and services. An inmate can’t rely on a prison warden to resolve a dispute over the quantity or quality of heroin. They can’t turn to officials if someone steals their marijuana stash.

In short, prison gangs form to provide extralegal governance. They enforce property rights and promote trade when formal governance mechanisms don’t. The provide law for the outlaws.

Yet, gangs’ dominance today stands in stark contrast with the historical record. In California, the prison system existed for more than a century before prison gangs emerged. If gangs are so important today, then why didn’t they exist for more than 100 years?

A major cause of the growth of prison gangs is the unprecedented growth in the prison population in the last 40 years. The United States locks up a larger number and proportion of its residents than any other country. This amounts to about 2.2 million people (707 out of every 100,000 residents). With such large prison populations, officials can’t provide all the governance that inmates’ desire. Mass incarceration thus creates fertile conditions for the rise of organized prison gangs.

David Skarbek is a Lecturer in the Department of Political Economy at King’s College London. He is the author of The Social Order of the Underworld: How Prison Gangs Govern the American Penal System, which is available on Oxford Scholarship Online. Read the introductory chapter ‘Governance Institutions and the Prison Community’ for free for a limited time.

Oxford Scholarship Online (OSO) is a vast and rapidly-expanding research library, and has grown to be one of the leading academic research resources in the world. Oxford Scholarship Online offers full-text access to scholarly works from key disciplines in the humanities, social sciences, science, medicine, and law, providing quick and easy access to award-winning Oxford University Press scholarship.

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5. Guantanamo Boy: a review

Perera, Anna. 2011. Guantanamo Boy. Chicago: Albert Whitman.
(first published in the UK, 2009)
Advance Reader Copy supplied by the publisher.  Due on shelves in August.
"We must remember that once we divide the world into good and bad, then we have to join one camp or the other, and, as you've found out, life's a bit more complex than that."
Funny (or not so funny) - in searching for related links, further information and other reviews on Guantanamo Boy, I actually found myself wondering (worrying?) if my every passing stop along the Internet seeking information related to Guantanamo Bay will be tracked by some government official in a cubicle somewhere.  Just the fact that such a thought crossed my mind, is an indication of the intense fear, distrust and paranoia that is gripping our world because of terrorism.  With that worldwide fear and paranoia as a backdrop for Guantanamo Boy, Anna Perera has crafted an entirely plausible story about a 15-year-old British boy, Khalid, from Rochdale, a large town in Greater Manchester, England.

Khalid is much like any other boy from his town, interested in good grades, his mates, soccer ("footy"), girls, and online gaming.  Though his family is Muslim, Khalid is a casual practitioner.  When his family visits Pakistan to assist an aunt, Khalid's father inexplicably disappears.  Khalid goes to check the address where his father was last seen, threading his way through a street protest enroute.  Unable to find his father, he returns to his aunt's home where he is later kidnapped in the late night hours,

Surely only his dad could be coming through the door without knocking this time of night?

But he's badly mistaken. Blocking the hallway is a gang of fierce-looking men dressed in dark shalwar kameez.  Black cloths wrapped around their heads.  Black gloves on their hands.  Two angry blue eyes, the rest brown, burn into Khalid as the figures move towards him like cartoon gangsters with square bodies.  Confused by the image, he staggers, bumping backwards into the wall.  Arms up to stop them getting nearer.  Too shocked and terrified to react as they shoulder him to the kitchen and close the door before pushing him to his knees and waving a gun at him as if he's a violent criminal.  Then vice-like hands clamp his mouth tight until they plaster it with duct tape.  No chance to wonder what the hell is going on, let alone scream out loud.
And so begins Khalid's descent into a frightening labyrinth of secret prisons, interrogation rooms, and finally Guantanamo Bay detention center.
A few lengthy passages are didactic in nature, but they are few in number. Khalid's unique perspective as a boy, a British citizen and non-practicing Muslim of Pakistani descent, offers a superb vantage point into the previously termed War on Terror. His sensibilities are Western, his concerns are adolescent, his perspective is that of  outsider - he has known discrimination in England, he is too Western for his Pakistani relatives, he has little in common with his fellow inmates.  Khalid is the perfect protagonist for this third-person narrative.

Heart-wrenching and frighteningly enlightening, Guantanmo Boy is not without bright spots - the power of small acts of kindness, the love of family,

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6. A Merciless Place

A Merciless Place is a story lost to history for over two hundred years; a dirty secret of failure, fatal misjudgement and desperate measures which the British Empire chose to forget almost as soon as it was over.

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7. Review: Deadman Wonderland Vol 3 by Takaoka and Kondou

 

Title: Deadman Wonderland V 3

Author: Jinsei Kataoka and Kazuma Kondou

Publisher:  Tokyopop

ISBN: 978-1427817433

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Ganta’s desperate struggle for survival continues as the second round of the Carnival of Corpses kicks off, but when he is matched against Minatsuki, Ganta learns that his new friends are not what they seem…and it may cost him his life! Yo, having infiltrated Ward G, trespasses into the ring and reveals that Minatsuki is his sister. Although memories of Ganta’s childhood friend, Shiro, return to him when he needs it the most, his savior may prove to be a devil in disguise. This downward spiral into the insanity of "Deadman Wonderland" holds startling revelations!

Review:

Deadman Wonderland is the perfect example of one of the reasons I feel like  I have lost my manga mojo.  I was thoroughly enjoying this action-packed sci-fi series when its US publisher, Tokyopop, abruptly shut their doors for business.  Stu Levy, per his own infamous Tweet, was bored with the publishing industry.  Books were too old-school for him, so he turned his back on all of his fans and totally rained on their parade.  Bye-bye almost ten years’ worth of collecting the old fashioned, boring books his publishing company had been blitzing the market with.  Bye-bye series that I had come to love and anticipate, and in part prompted me to start this blog in the first place.  Ouch!  Talk about a slap in the face…

Deadman Wonderland is the type of series I didn’t have much interest in when I first heard about it.  I’m not a big fan of horror yarns or stories with graphic violence, though after taking a look at some of the titles I am following, I am going to have to admit that I do like some of these kinds of books.  While this title doesn’t have a lot of over the top violence, it does offer its fair share of blood sprays, explosions, and destructive combat scenes.  After reading the first volume, I was hooked.  How is Ganta going to survive and get out of Deadman Wonderland?  Will he survive the Carnival of Corpses?  At first glance, it doesn’t seem that he will survive very long, with his skinny frame and gullible nature.  Better for US fans if he had only lived the span of four graphic novels – we wouldn’t have been left hanging when yet another manga publisher shuttered their offices.

This volume has Ganta facing off against Yo’s sister in the second round of the Carnival of Corpses.  Minatsuki is a psychopath, and she gets off on lying and killing.  Her hair is her deadly weapon, and she can whip her opponents to bloody ribbons with about as much effort as it takes a normal person to yawn.  Their battle gets off to a fierce and furious start, and it looks like Ganta’s going to go down fast.  Then Yo arrives to complicate matters even more for the hapless Ganta.

I like this series, and I don’t know why.  The action is mind-numbing, the plot is erratic, and most of the characters are one-dimensional.   Still, there are enough twists and suspense to keep me turning the pages.  I like Ganta quite a bit, and I want him to survive, to find out why he’s in DW, and to somehow find freedom for himself.  I also like Shiro.  I want to know everything about her.  A fe

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8. Sentencing the rioters

By Susan Easton In the wake of the recent riots, much attention has been given to the causes of the riots but an issue now at the forefront of press and public concern is the level of punishment being meted out to those convicted of riot-related offences. Reports of first offenders being convicted and imprisoned for thefts of items of small value have raised questions about the purposes of sentencing, the problems of giving exemplary sentences and of inconsistency, as well as the issue of political pressure on sentencers.

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9. Review: Rip Tide by Kat Falls

Ty's ocean escapades continue in this riveting sequel to Dark Life. Click here to read my full review.

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10. Nelson Mandela, 22 years after his release from prison

By Kenneth S. Broun

Twenty-two years ago, on the 11th of February 1990, Nelson Mandela walked out of a South African prison, a free man for the first time in twenty-seven years. He immediately assumed the leadership role that would move South Africa from a system of apartheid to a struggling but viable democracy. No one person, not even Nelson Mandela, was solely responsible for this miracle. But no one can doubt the crucial role that he played in the process that brought a new era to South Africa, or that his intellect, sturdy leadership, and political savvy made this process far more peaceful than anyone had predicted would be the case.

That Mandela was alive to assume this leadership is a remarkable story. When the trial that led to his conviction began in 1963, most in South Africa and abroad predicted that he and his codefendants would be hanged. Mandela and his codefendants faced charges brought under the recently enacted Sabotage Act, the violation of which carried the death penalty. The South African government proudly announced that it had brought to justice men who had planned and begun to carry out a campaign for its violent overthrow. The country’s press celebrated the success of the police in catching the violent criminals who represented a very real threat to the way of life of white South Africa. Foreign representatives were told by informed sources that the maximum sentence for the top leadership was possible, indeed likely.

The 1963–64 trial of Mandela and his co-defendants is known as the Rivonia trial, named for the Johannesburg suburb in which most of the defendants were arrested. Other defendants included ANC leaders Walter Sisulu, Govan Mbeki, the father of future South African president Thabo Mbeki, and the South African Indian leader, Ahmed Kathrada.

A team composed of lawyers of great intellect, legal ability and integrity defended the accused. They applied their considerable skill to a cause in which they deeply believed. The accused, through both their statements to the court and their testimony, demonstrated strength of character and devotion to a cause that even a hostile judge could not, in the end, ignore. The conduct of the judge before whom the case was tried illustrates both the strength and weaknesses of the South African judicial system. The judge may well have been independent of the government and its prosecutor, but his own prejudices guided him through much of the proceedings. The prosecutor, who was described by a visiting British barrister as a “nasty piece of work” may have hurt, rather than helped his case by engaging in a political dialogue with the defendants who took the witness stand.

White South African opinion was clearly in favor of the prosecution and harsh sentences for the accused. But international opinion was almost unanimous in its support for them, particularly in the newly independent African states and the Communist bloc. There was also considerable attention to the trial on the part of the major Western powers, or at least concern that death sentences would sour relations with African and other Third World people. The question was how the West, and in particular the United States and United Kingdom, might attempt to influence the trial’s outcome.

Perhaps the key point in the trial was Nelson Mandela’s statement from the dock, a statement made in lieu of testimony. He ended the statement with these words:

During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to the struggle of the African People. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to li

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11. The Zebra Forest, by Adina Rishe Gewirtz

"So as that summer began, while America counted hostage days and Beth learned to swim, I thought up good lies to tell and climbed trees and lay a lot in the shade." (egalley pg 11-12)

11 year old Annie and little brother Rew live at the edge of the Zebra forest with their Gran.  They keep mostly to themselves, on account of the house and on account of Gran, but Annie and Rew have each other, a battered copy of Treasure Island, the joy of making up bad jokes, and the many trees of the Zebra forest to keep them company on the hot, steamy summer days. 

They are getting along in typical fashion when one summer night, a man rattles the back door and steps into the kitchen.  Before Annie can process what is even happening, the man takes the key they always keep in the knob, drops it in his pocket and tells Annie to stay quiet.  As Annie stands dumbfounded, Rew heads for the phone and then the door, but the man is quick and powerful.  He is also covered in mud, and his clothes are torn.  He has come through the forest.  On the other side of the Zebra forest is the prison.

Now they must wait.  Gran completely shuts down, and Annie and Rew must figure out how to be in the house with the doors shut and the windows closed, with the precarious piles and dirty dishes, with the man always there, always watching.  There will be no more going into the trees to read Treasure Island, no more trips out into the shade.

Adina Rishe Gewirtz has crafted a novel that gives an inside look into mental illness and family.  There is an incredible resilience to both Annie and Rew that shines through even though the two deal with their situation in vastly different ways.  The importance of story (both family and books) is felt throughout. Even though some major points like the Iran Hostage Crisis and the plot of Treasure Island may be unfamiliar to today's readers, Gewirtz does a fine job of weaving them into the greater plot -- using them to give a sense of ticking time as well as examination into real life characters.  This is a book that may not be for everyone, but will definitely find fierce love with the readers who love imperfect characters, finding connections, and those who don't mind feeling a bit off kilter.

Publishing April 9, 2013.


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12. Education and crime over the life cycle

By Giulio Fella and Giovanni Gallipoli


Crime is a hot issue on the policy agenda in the United States. Despite a significant fall in crime levels during the 1990s, the costs to taxpayers have soared together with the prison population. The US prison population has doubled since the early 1980s and currently stands at over 2 million inmates. According to the latest World Prison Population List (ICPS, 2013), the prison population rate in 2012 stood at 716 inmates per 100,000 inhabitants, against about 480 in the United Kingdom and the Russian Federation – the two OECD countries with the next highest rates – and against a European average of 154. The rise in the prison population is not just a phenomenon in the United States. Over the last twenty years, prison population rates have grown by over 20% in almost all countries in the European Union and by at least 40% in one half of them. The pattern appears remarkably similar in other regions, with a growth of 50% in Australia, 38% in New Zealand and about 6% worldwide.

In many countries – such as the United States and Canada – this fast-paced growth has occurred against a backdrop of stable or decreasing crime rates and is mostly due to mandatory and longer prison sentencing for non-violent offenders. But how much does prison actually cost? And who goes to jail?

The average annual cost per prison inmate in the United States was close to 30,000 dollars in 2008. Costs are even higher in countries like the United Kingdom and Canada. Punishment is an expensive business. These figures have prompted a shift of interest, among both academics and policymakers, from tougher sentencing to other forms of intervention. Prison populations overwhelmingly consist of individuals with poor education and even poorer job prospects. Over 70% of US inmates in 1997 did not have a high school degree. In an influential paper, Lochner and Moretti (2004) establish a sizable negative effect of education, in particular of high school graduation, on crime. There is also a growing body of evidence on the positive effect of education subsidies on school completion rates. In light of this evidence, and given the monetary and human costs of crime, it is crucial to quantify the relative benefits of policies promoting incarceration vis-à-vis alternatives such as boosting educational attainment, and in particular high school graduation.

When it comes to reducing crime, prevention may be more efficient than punishment. Resources devoted to running jails could profitably be employed in productive activities if the same crime reduction could be achieved through prevention.

iStock_000012526327Small

Establishing which policies are more efficient requires a framework that accounts for individuals’ responses to alternative policies and can compare their costs and benefits. In other words, one needs a model of education and crime choices that allows for realistic heterogeneity in individuals’ labor market opportunities and propensity to engage in property crime. Crucially, this analysis must be empirically relevant and account for several features of the data, in particular for the crime response to changes in enrollment rates and the enrollment response to graduation subsidies.

The findings from this type of exercise are fairly clear and robust. For the same crime reduction, subsidizing high school graduation entails large output and efficiency gains that are absent in the case of tougher sentences. By improving the education composition of the labor force, education subsidies increase the differential between labor market and illegal returns for the average worker and reduce crime rates. The increase in average productivity is also reflected in higher aggregate output. The responses in crime rate and output are large. A subsidy equivalent to about 9% of average labor earnings during each of the last two years of high school induces almost a 10% drop in the property crime rate and a significant increase in aggregate output. The associated welfare gain for the average worker is even larger, as education subsidies weaken the link between family background and lifetime outcomes. In fact, one can show that the welfare gains are twice as large as the output gains. This compares to negligible output and welfare gains in the case of increased punishment. These results survive a variety of robustness checks and alternative assumptions about individual differences in crime propensity and labor market opportunities.

To sum up, the main message is that, although interventions which improve lifetime outcomes may take time to deliver results, given enough time they appear to be a superior way to reduce crime. We hope this research will advance the debate on the relative benefits of alternative policies.

Giulio Fella is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Economics and Finance at Queen Mary University, United Kingdom. Giovanni Gallipoli is an Associate Professor at the Vancouver School of Economics (University of British Columbia) in Canada. They are the co-authors of the paper ‘Education and Crime over the Life Cycle‘ in the Review of Economic Studies.

Review of Economic Studies aims to encourage research in theoretical and applied economics, especially by young economists. It is widely recognised as one of the core top-five economics journal, with a reputation for publishing path-breaking papers, and is essential reading for economists.

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Image credit: Prison, © rook76, via iStock Photo.

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13. 31 Reasons to Get Excited About May

Becky's Book Blogs lays it on the line. With me you get a review here, then a pause, then a review there. You may never get a full picture of what's coming out when. That's where Becky comes in. I love the idea of talking up the titles due on the current month's shelves. If she weren't such a consistent blogger I would steal this idea from her in a second.

Just saying.

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14. Alcoholic Inmates Anonymous, Hotel Heists and Odd Animals

I’ve recently been going through the UK’s daily papers and finding one or two weird news items and giving you links to them but I’m now finding myself in a position where I can’t keep up with the weird and wonderful so I’m trying a change of tack and just give you a brief rundown of what I found intriguing or amusing!

Here’s my top four for today.

Image by Jim Linwood via Flickr

I was checking out the Daily Telegraph and came across something particularly odd.  It seems that, in order to try and keep swine ‘flu at bay in H M Prison The Verne in Dorset, the governor sanctioned the purchase of a goodly supply of anti-bacterial hand gel.  As soon as it was distributed amongst the prisoners apparently one of the inmates decided it’d be a good idea to drink it rather than shove it on his hands.  I’m not sure how much the prisoner actually drank but he became a tad tiddly and started a fight.  Before anyone knew it, there was a full blown behind bars brawl.  Oddly enough, the staff at the prison took away what remained of the hand gel, presumably considering it would be easier to deal with a swine ‘flu epidemic than an alcohol poison one!

It just begs the question, who was the prisoner who actually tried the hand gel in the first place?  I’m just wondering what I’ve got under the kitchen sink that I could try?  How about a Mr Muscle Margarita for starters?

The second news item that interested me was again from the Daily Telegraph.  It gave details of some of the strangest items that had been taken from hotel rooms.  Amongst those that caught my eye were a marble fireplace; a whole room – the contents were completely stripped; a mounted boar’s head; a hotel owner’s dog; a grand piano and a selection of sex toys. 

Once again, my brain went into overdrive, particularly when it came to the sex toys.  I can’t  imagine even using sex toys provided by a hotel let alone stealing them – you don’t know where they’ve been!!

Image via Wikipedia

My next story which was reported in several papers, relates to a tortoise that was found walking along the M25 motorway (freeway).  Thankfully, for once, most of the drivers were obviously keeping their eyes on the road and the tortoise was rescued by a tortoise loving driver who, having taken a little detour to the supermarket to pick up some lettuce and tomatoes for the traumatised turtle and then took him for a check up at the local vet where it was discovered that he was chipped so hopefully owners and family pet will soon be reunited.

Quite what the tortoise was doing on the M25 I have no idea.  Maybe, like many travellers before him, he couldn’t find the right junction off the circular motorway to reach home or another alternative could be that he’d been visiting The Verne Prison and had a drop too much of anti-bacterial hand gel!!!

And finally, what would you expect a badger to eat?  I’d always considered they spent their evenings rummaging around the woodlands looking out grubs, insects, worms and the odd mouse or two but it seems it’s now been discovered that the latest badger delicacy is hedgehog.  How can a badger who normally eats small and relatively ’smooth’ food cope with the prickles?  What motivates a badger to even consider tackling a hedgehog.  Maybe their lives are so mundane that they decided they wanted more of a challenge.  It’s a mystery to me but I’m sure that some night wildlife watcher will come up with a bit of video footage to enlighten me!

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15. Alcoholic Inmates Anonymous, Hotel Heists and Odd Animals

I’ve recently been going through the UK’s daily papers and finding one or two weird news items and giving you links to them but I’m now finding myself in a position where I can’t keep up with the weird and wonderful so I’m trying a change of tack and just give you a brief rundown of what I found intriguing or amusing!

Here’s my top four for today.

Image by Jim Linwood via Flickr

I was checking out the Daily Telegraph and came across something particularly odd.  It seems that, in order to try and keep swine ‘flu at bay in H M Prison The Verne in Dorset, the governor sanctioned the purchase of a goodly supply of anti-bacterial hand gel.  As soon as it was distributed amongst the prisoners apparently one of the inmates decided it’d be a good idea to drink it rather than shove it on his hands.  I’m not sure how much the prisoner actually drank but he became a tad tiddly and started a fight.  Before anyone knew it, there was a full blown behind bars brawl.  Oddly enough, the staff at the prison took away what remained of the hand gel, presumably considering it would be easier to deal with a swine ‘flu epidemic than an alcohol poison one!

It just begs the question, who was the prisoner who actually tried the hand gel in the first place?  I’m just wondering what I’ve got under the kitchen sink that I could try?  How about a Mr Muscle Margarita for starters?

The second news item that interested me was again from the Daily Telegraph.  It gave details of some of the strangest items that had been taken from hotel rooms.  Amongst those that caught my eye were a marble fireplace; a whole room – the contents were completely stripped; a mounted boar’s head; a hotel owner’s dog; a grand piano and a selection of sex toys. 

Once again, my brain went into overdrive, particularly when it came to the sex toys.  I can’t  imagine even using sex toys provided by a hotel let alone stealing them – you don’t know where they’ve been!!

Image via Wikipedia

My next story which was reported in several papers, relates to a tortoise that was found walking along the M25 motorway (freeway).  Thankfully, for once, most of the drivers were obviously keeping their eyes on the road and the tortoise was rescued by a tortoise loving driver who, having taken a little detour to the supermarket to pick up some lettuce and tomatoes for the traumatised turtle and then took him for a check up at the local vet where it was discovered that he was chipped so hopefully owners and family pet will soon be reunited.

Quite what the tortoise was doing on the M25 I have no idea.  Maybe, like many travellers before him, he couldn’t find the right junction off the circular motorway to reach home or another alternative could be that he’d been visiting The Verne Prison and had a drop too much of anti-bacterial hand gel!!!

And finally, what would you expect a badger to eat?  I’d always considered they spent their evenings rummaging around the woodlands looking out grubs, insects, worms and the odd mouse or two but it seems it’s now been discovered that the latest badger delicacy is hedgehog.  How can a badger who normally eats small and relatively ’smooth’ food cope with the prickles?  What motivates a badger to even consider tackling a hedgehog.  Maybe their lives are so mundane that they decided they wanted more of a challenge.  It’s a mystery to me but I’m sure that some night wildlife watcher will come up with a bit of video footage to enlighten me!

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16. One Crazy Summer

Williams-Garcia, Rita. 2010. One Crazy Summer. New York: Harper Collins.


If you haven't heard of One Crazy Summer, you will.  Rita Williams-Garcia's latest middle grade fiction is getting a lot of buzz, and justifiably so.

One Crazy Summer is set in a poor neighborhood of Oakland, California, 1968.  Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern (three African-American girls, aged 11, 9 and 7) travel on their own from Brooklyn to Oakland.  Their father, against the judgment of the girls' grandmother and caretaker, Big Mama, has decided that it's time for the girls to meet Cecile, the mother that deserted them.  With visions of Disneyland, movie stars, and Tinkerbell dancing in their heads, they set off on the plane determined not to make, as Big Mama says, "Negro spectacles" of themselves.  This is advice that Delphine, the oldest, has heard often.  She is smart and savvy with a good head on her shoulders, and she knows how to keep her sisters in line.  Not much can throw her for a loop, but then, she hasn't met crazy Cecile yet.  Cecile, or Nzila, as she is known among the Black Panthers, is consumed by her passion - poetry.  She writes powerful and moving poems for "the people" - important work, and she is not about to be disturbed by three young girls and their constant needs for food and attention. She operates a one-woman printing press in her kitchen - no children allowed. Instead of Disneyland and the beach, she shoos the girls off daily to the local center run by the Black Panthers.  There, in the midst of an impoverished, minority neighborhood, the girls receive free breakfast, kind words, and an education the likes of which they would never have gotten in Brooklyn.  Slowly, they begin to understand the plight of "the people" - the Blacks, the poor, the immigrants, even Cecile.

Although this book has several great themes (Civil Rights, sisterhood, community) and well-rounded strong-willed characters, you can read about them in any number of reviews.  As for me, with my teenage daughter preparing to take a trip to Europe next month with the Girl Scouts, one thing from One Crazy Summer jumped

2 Comments on One Crazy Summer, last added: 6/27/2010
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17. prison library confidentiality

I read this short essay in the NYTimes magazine section. A little slice of life of a prison librarian, soon to be part of an upcoming book called “Running the Books: The Adventures of an Accidental Prison Librarian” Enjoyed the anecdote and yet, oddly, felt weird about seeing the titles of the books listed. Old habits die hard.

Libraries are full of hints to life’s great puzzles. For the mystery of which recently released, 5-foot-10 or so Latino man still owed two books, the prison library offered a name, and the two books he owed: “Introduction to Astrology” and “The Astrology of Human Relationships.” But regarding the mystery of what he discovered in his study of the cosmos, the prison library was completely silent.

1 Comments on prison library confidentiality, last added: 10/10/2010
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