IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn has been remanded in custody at New York's notorious Rikers Island jail on charges of sexual assault.

This headline has generated a lot of media interest over the last few days. Crime and Punishment are back in the news again. A man in a Very Important Position has had the indignity of being placed among some of the most dangerous inmates in the US correctional system. The story raises very serious questions and once more the spotlight has been shone very brightly into the dark place known as the penal system in the United States. Obviously, the interest in Rikers Island would be nil if Mr Strauss-Kahn had not checked in, after all people are admitted onto the island complex every day, (average daily population 14,000).

Here in the UK, like many other countries, we have a fascination with jails and prison. Many documentaries are made in prisons, and dramas about prison and prisoners are shown regularly. Is this voyeurism or concern? Probably a bit of both. Over the last week, Law & Order has featured constantly in the headlines. Super-injunctions for footballers, Ken Clarke's offensive muddle on rape. Radio and TV are clambering over each other to feature prison stories. How hard is Rikers? What will it be like for this man inside? Are US facilities really that tough?

Wormwood Scrubs was the venue for this week's edition of Question Time on BBC TV, prisoners were allowed to be in the audience, (surrounded by prison officers), and Justice Secretary Ken Clarke was on the panel apologising once more.

This weekend the two-part documentary, Louis Theroux: Miami Mega-Jail, is being shown again on BBC Two on Sunday 22 and 29 May at 9pm.

One person who knows more than most about life in the US correctional system is Shaun Attwood. As has been well-documented in this blog, Shaun has experienced all that the US jail and prison system could throw at him. The surprising thing is that he has emerged sane and safe. He has a lot to offer in the way of advice for anybody connected with prisons and jails, you could say he was a specialist on the subject. His expertise and knowledge are already being put to good use in schools and colleges around the UK, and he is a tireless campaigner for penal reform. What suggestions would Shaun have for Mr Strauss-Kahn to help him survive his stay on Rikers Island?

Blog admin.


Anonymous said...

Sorry Jon I have to call you on this post, its not clear if you wrote it but, the phrase 'Ken Clarke's offensive muddle on rape.' is completely false.

If you actually read Clarke's comments on rape I challenge you to find issue with them, what was offensive was the tabloid press and his opponents putting words into his mouth.

Clarke in no way suggested that rape (of any kind) wasn't serious.

As a important blogger on justice and crime and punishment in the UK i think you should look into this and publish a correction rather than following the tabloid line.

Clarke is the only UK politician who talks any kind of sense about prisons in the UK and with this sort of knee jerk reporting you risk turning him into a UK Arpaio.

Anonymous said...

This is all about cuts, Clarke may have a softer line on prisons and punishment, but the Torys are only following this route to save money. Michael Howard's creed would be continued if they could afford it. ('prison works')
It wasn't just the 'tabloid press' who were surprised by Clarke's remarks, I think he was surprised himself by what came out of his mouth. He should go for a pint and a lie down.

Jon said...


This post was by blog admin, not me.


Anonymous said...

the apologist for ken clarke has missed the whole point in the post

Anonymous said...

Maybe you could suggest what you think Ken Clark need to apologise for? Then I can answer it.

I got the point of the post, to suggest that I did not, just because i challenged one issue is pure stupidity.

Prisons are an appalling waste of money, they don't work and cost a fortune, I'm not sure how you can critique the Torys (or anyone else) for seeking to reduce the cost. But why are you trying to make this some kind of party political argument? I really don't think it has any relevance here.

Mr/Mrs Anonymous talking about Michael Howard who was Home Secretary almost two decades ago is virtually irrelevant, and anyway he is on record as opposing Clarke's views.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said "It wasn't just the 'tabloid press' who were surprised by Clarke's remarks, I think he was surprised himself by what came out of his mouth. He should go for a pint and a lie down."

Again you have not read clarke's remarks, when you have come back and tell me what you have issue with? Only the tabloid press critised him, he was supported by the broadsheets, after the furor died down, and their readers.