February 07, 2006

Life sentence

The prison in Huesca is closed. I walked past it earlier today and it was silent: silent and still. I wasn't sure at first, since that is precisely the impression that a prison likes to give, but when I asked I was told, yes, the prison was closed and its fate was still being discussed - whether it should be a supermarket, or some kind of leisure complex, or whatever other use the building could be turned to.

Whatever it is would surely be an improvement on a prison, just as a prison that is closed must surely be an improvement on a prison that is open. In London, I imagine, they might squat a building such as that: thereby respecting the principle whereby prisons are usually the place where homeless people find their destination.

Rare to find a prison that is closed in England: we cannot find enough places to put the people we lock up. But they did close Oxford prison, towards the end of the fifteen years I lived in that city, the prime location of the jail no doubt influencing the decision to terminate its history as a penal institution. A shame, from no point of view other than my own: I used to walk close to the prison to visit a favourite pub not far away. When I did so it was often possible to come across some women, wives and girlfriends of the inmates, just by the bank of the Thames on the ironically-named Paradise Street, shouting messages to their men from a point beyond the walls. I rather liked to watch them as I passed.

One evening I saw a family of ducks - which creatures, as I understand it, mate for life - swimming along the river by the point at which the women used to stand. For a minute or two the drake mislaid his wife and chicks and panicked, circling round, flapping and quacking as he went - until he found them again, landed among them on the water and they swam off together. Some bonds are stronger than governments and laws.


At February 07, 2006 6:48 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Felices ter et amplius...I am sure you know the quotation from Horace..but achieved by so few

At March 20, 2006 7:26 pm, Anonymous Addy said...

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