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Date: 25/12/14

Banged Up - Out Of Order

It is, of course, the one day of the year when we are injoined to forget being part of a dynamic, thrusting, go-getting, put-your-foot-on-the-throat-of-your-competitor society, and remember those less fortunate than ourselves, in accordance with those dominant Christian values promoted by our righteous, prole-stomping, corporate-criminal-coddling, oligarch-oiling Prime Minister. So let us follow Our Glorious Leader and consider the case of Ashley Stansfield.

Mr. Stansfield is what is known in the common parlance as a 'petty criminal', and has been serving a fairly short prison sentence for a comparatively minor offence.

Back in August, he was released on a tagged curfew which meant that he wasn't allowed to leave his residence for twelve hours a day (or, rather, night).

Straight away, he started looking for work, which action one would think we would all applaud. Unusually for someone with 'a record' and a spell in jug in these times, he found a delivery firm which - after a trial period - gave him a job. Mr. Stansfield bought his own uniform (this apparently being an expenditure that the company deemed harmful to their own 'boddom line' if they had bought it, but leave that aside) and prepared to start re-entering the world of useful and tax-paying (being only a 'little person') activity.

There was one small wrinkle, however: the job required him to start work at 6:15 every morning, but his curfew ran to 7:00am. He approached his supervising parole officer, who told him to go ahead and start the job anyway. Assuming that he had thereby had the all-clear, Mr. Stansfield duly started work.

Two weeks later, upon turning up for what he had taken to be a routine appointment with the parole officer, he was told that he was in breach of his curfew and was taken straight back to prison.

The reason stated - by the private company which was supposed to be supervising him - was that he would have needed the permission not only of the parole officer but of the Prison Service as well before his curfew conditions could be amended. Such permission - assuming that the privateers had actually asked for it - had not yet been given, and so Mr Stansfield was returned - not to the open prison from which he had been let out only a handful of weeks before - but to the noisome environment of a closed establishment, there to sit out another two to three months before the licence period expired and he would have to be released anyway.

So, because of bureaucratic slowness and incompetence - by both the private company and the public sector - a man who had a job and was starting to rebuild his life has been sent back to square one, with a real likelihood that the job he had taken will not be there for him when he gets out again, and at a cost to all decent, hard-working, law-abiding, tax-paying, cliché-ridden folk of upwards of £9000 to keep him inside for that teensy-weensy bit longer (just to make a point). Mr Stansfield could be forgiven for feeling the deepest cynicism towards a society in which someone can do everything that the public and pols say they want of him and still get shafted.

(The story can be found here)

(A similar degree of footling idiocy can be found in this story, where the curfew conditions were also set with little regard for practicality, or even reality).

Such stories all fall under the general heading of 'Rules is rules is rules, and I'm going to cover my arse, irrespective of how absurd the result may be', a philosophy (if one could gild it in such terms) which has taken root like Japanese knotweed in public administration over a period of many years.