Thursday 4 June 2009

Pedalling Between Prisons

I thought I would post a lighter story on NextLeft to hopefully distract us (momentarily at least) from the pervading doom and gloom.

The BBC reports that in France they have a novel idea of dealing with prisoners – a penal Tour de France. The French have adapted one of their unique sporting institutions for prisoners serving between 5 and 10 years, and they will visit 17 French prisons spread across the country.

The BBC manages to capture the inevitable slip of the tongue (or maybe not) in full glory from one of the participants:

It’s a kind of escape for us…

But, apparently the prisoners are under strict instructions not to break away from the pelleton, so the race will become more of a procession than a series of break-aways. However, I imagine there may be a sprint finish between the Marseilles and Toulose prisoners.

Why couldn’t we do a similar thing in England? After all, we have sky-high prison numbers and they are only set to rise, so it would help if a couple of hundred prisoners were on the road.

England and Wales have over 140 prisons between them so it would be quite a long tour, ranging from Dartmouth to Durham, and would keep prisoners occupied for many weeks or even months. There could even be a women’s version leaving from Holloway.

Cycling is a good thing for an unhealthy nation, as Louise Bamfield pointed out in her Fabian Review suggestion a year ago. If prisoners devote their energies to cycling and seeing our glorious English country-side with its many roundabouts, they would surely be better re-habilitated than by staring at a wall in a cell. In an earlier blog, I criticised Louise Casey’s obsession with orange vests for prisoners, but in the context of a Tour of Britain these could be the famous maillots jaunes.

Let’s hope this suggestion is at the top of the in-tray of the Justice Minister post re-shuffle. After all, it is a timely way we can learn from our European neighbours.

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