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News Round-Up Week Ending 30.10.15

(Posted on 02/11/15)


Britain's final Guantanamo detainee flown home:

Shaker Aamer was reunited with his family after 14 years’ imprisonment without charge, including solitary confinement and possible torture,.

Aamer thanked “everyone who has helped make today possible including the campaigners at the Daily Mail”, although the paper’s headline reflected greatest concern for the means of his return to the UK: ‘British taxpayers foot £70,000 bill for private jet’.

“The reason I have been strong is because of the support of people so strongly devoted to the truth,” Aamer said in a statement. “I am overwhelmed by what people have done by their actions, their thoughts and their prayers, and without their devotion to justice I would not be here in Britain now.”

The Mail claimed the Government is likely to offer Aamer over £1million to buy his silence on British complicity in his torture.

Cutting the cost of prison, Texas style

The Guardian reported Justice Secretary Michael Gove’s recent visit to Texas to see Old Sparky’s state’s rethinking on crime and punishment.

In 2007, the number of inmates in Texan jails was 172,000, twice as many as currently held in England and Wales. Republican state representative Jerry Madden and Democrat John Whitmire sought to figure out how to avoid spending $2bn building new prisons.

“You remember 25 years ago there was a great movie made about a place in Iowa called Field of Dreams?” said Madden. “A great line from Field of Dreams is, ‘If you build it, they will come’. My task was not to build it, so we would have fewer people coming. And at the same time making the community safer.

“We looked at the whole system. First thing you need to look at is what kind of people do we have in prisons? We have people who really we’re afraid of, and ones that we’re mad at. The ones that’ve done what you’d call knuckleheaded things, and the ones who’ve done seriously violent things. We put the serious violent ones aside, basically [on Death Row].

“If you take somebody who’s a drug addict and you break their drug habit, maybe they’ll be less likely to commit crimes. And if you take people with mental health problems and treat them, provide them with medicines, we’d be safer. If we took alcoholics and stopped them from drinking and driving we’d make the roads safer.”

The Texas prison population has now fallen to about 166,000 even as the population has grown. Prisons have closed, not opened. Far fewer young people are locked up. Recidivism is down.

Gove told the BBC he wants to “ensure that when individuals are in court, there is a teachable moment that they recognise they’ve done wrong, and if custody may not be the answer for them, that there are other things we can do”.

26 years since release of Guildford Four

The Independent reminded us of the day in October 1989 when “three Irish men and an English woman were released from prison in Britain. Their jailing for a pub bombing in the Surrey town of Guildford, south of London had been exposed as a gross miscarriage of justice in which police statements were shown to be fiction, confessions secured under duress, and forensic evidence concocted to jail the four. But it took almost 15 years for the truth to emerge.”