The Tyranny of the Fortunate

Nowhere in Western Europe jails more of its population than England and Wales: 147 in every 100,000 to be exact. 80,000 people languish in mostly old, overcrowded prisons. Reoffending rates in some of our major prisons are in excess of 70%. But does anybody really care? Not really, least of all our elected representatives. Why? Because prisoners are politically unimportant.

Britain is a deeply divided nation. It is one of the most unequal societies in the western world. Outwardly, we purport to be a civilised nation, but the way we treat our prisoners tells another story. Thirty years of growing inequality have convinced fortunate ‘middle England’ that this is a natural condition. Our moral sentiments have been so corrupted that we have become indifferent to the suffering of our fellow citizens: uncritical of a society that finds it necessary to incarcerate so many, content to support politicians whose policies increase inequality and do nothing to better prison conditions.

The fortunate, shielded from the harsh realities of daily life that so many of our fellow citizens endure, have their fears and insecurities endorsed by asinine drivel pumped out by publications like the Daily Mail: so much so that they selfishly guard their advantage and actively seek to support those who will enhance it. The less fortunate are of little consequence, as are the prisoners in our gaols or the conditions they suffer. The mutterings of the ‘hang ‘em high, throw away the key’ brigade and the populist utterances of the likes of David Davis show what a selfish, narrow minded little country we have become and how the tyranny of the fortunate has contributed to the inequality of our society.

Giving prisoners the vote is much more than restoring a human right. It’s about ensuring they become politically important: that they feature on the radar of politicians: that they get the proper attention of a civilised society.

‘The tyranny of the fortunate’ is a phrase used by the late Anthony Howard

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