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Neil Moore, convicted fraudster from East London, used his skills to escape from Wandsworth prison last month. He forged an email that imitated Her Majesty’s Court Service on an illicit phone, granting himself bail from the largest prison in the UK. It was only when his solicitors went to interview him three days later that he was found to be missing, leaving many baffled as to how he managed to pull off such a feat.
Technology is overtaking us. We have become dependent on it; even such a trivial thing as turning our phones off for an hour seems a task too difficult for many of us. With the development of technology we can assume that a higher level of security has been implemented. So it comes as a shock to learn that the use and knowledge of technology has seemingly surpassed the level of security in Wandsworth prison. Being wary of technology and its limits is critical for security.
In court, Judge David Hunt described Moore’s audacious breakout as ‘ingenious,’ a word not usually associated with the escape of an inmate. The impressive skills Moore used are worth acknowledging. How is it that his email was taken to be valid in such a high-security environment? It’s worth thinking about how his skills could be used for non-criminal purposes instead, to benefit the community.
This is unfortunately not the only questioning of security that we have seen at Wandsworth prison recently. In February, prisoner Alexander Mullings imported machine guns from Germany from inside Wandsworth using, again, an illicit phone. It is becoming increasingly difficult to identify and stop the use of phones by prison inmates, causing a decline in the efficiency of prison security. Phones and sim cards are getting smaller, less easy to detect, so how are we to proceed?
Events such as these highlight our methods of punishment. Perhaps a focus on rehabilitation would be a more suitable path for crimes such as fraud. We must question whether placing a human in a cell is going to produce or instil as much reparation and rehabilitation as, for example, being put in a community where the individuals have a sense of worth, where they are treated as human beings. We pride ourselves in being free individuals, yet we must abide by rules set by the government. Breaking these rules leads to punishment. But is our form of punishment too demeaning?
Bastoy prison island in Norway allows inmates a life, treating them as humans instead of animals. They are put into houses of up to six people and work every day, with free time to spend as they please. The community is monitored and assessed to ensure that criminals are forging a way towards a new life without crime when eventually released. The point of punishment is for the person concerned to repent for the crime they committed, to keep and deter people from breaking the law and harming others. However, when the cost of keeping an inmate in prison is £40,000 a year, and when people are able to commit crimes from within prison and escape, we must query how effective our system is in keeping society secure. The focus, it could be argued, should be on education and integration, not segregation.
What is the answer? Should we try a more liberal method of punishment, as the Norwegians do? Should we focus our attention to the education of inmates? Our ultimate goal is security, finding a method that will make the UK a happier, safer and more community-driven country. If technology is progressing, we should also progress, and strive to achieve the delicate balance between security and individual liberty.