- Published: Saturday, 10 January 2015 18:46
- Written by Colin Sumner
My thanks to Richard Garside for bringing this review by Rob Allen of the first programme in the current ITV series Bring Back Borstal to my attention on Twitter. It is entitled Bring Back Borstal: Serious Policy or Punishment Porn? The review is from the blog Unlocking Potential. It more or less captures my view of the dangers of this programme. I say this despite my admiration for the huge contribution of David Wilson to public criminology. I will also say that I think many of the critical comments on Twitter fail to see the point in making programmes like this. Their assumption is that the rest of the population are criminological morons and that David, a professor of criminology and ex-prison governor, and good rugby player, knows nothing of critical or realist criminology, penology or running a prison full of violent offenders. There are also those of course who will aggressively oppose any authoritative response to aggression, irrespective of the victims' pain and injury. I am reminded of the early 1980's when the 'Left' had no response to the punitiveness of Thatcherite politics. There will always be 'dangers' in the public exposition of ideas, dangers in creating the wrong impression, so I am glad David was brave enough.
Personally, coming from a working-class background, beleaguered by crime and violence, and as lifelong socialist, I am more disturbed by the Left's intolerance and rudeness towards anything it sees as politically incorrect and its middle-class refusal to see young delinquents as a pain in the arse, as scary, and as detrimental to the interests of ordinary or working-class people. Can't critics see that many of the latter actually like 'reality' television and would view David as a soft governor? Or that they don't actually appreciate their commodities being stolen or being physically threatened by kids who seem to fear nothing and have no respect? Or that some offenders do actually need some discipline and some realism? Not that they would get it from a 1930's Borstal in 2015.....
My tweet to David about the programme was to ask whether he thought you could take a 1930's institution out of its social and historical context. My view is that you can't, and modern kids demand and need a modern response. It might be called historicism, fine, and you might also say that we are all creatures of our times and that punishments therefore must fit crimes in terms of the zeitgeist and social structure. No premiership football team manager can manage today's players as Alex Ferguson and Jock Stein allegedly did. Mind you, look at Alex's success rate! He was from Govan. I recommend the critics go and live in rough areas of the UK for a few years and be a bit more modest. Working-class lads need discipline, teamwork and motivation if they are going to get anywhere.
And, whilst we don't often cite the Daily Mail, here is the reason 'matron' in the tv series, Jenny Molloy, author of two books on the subject and herself brought up in a care home, took part in the series. Her reasons echo my own comments above but are much better put.
See also further comment, just posted on the same blog, by Rob Allen Don't Bring Back Borstal; But We can Learn Something from It