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Feedback: Programmes featuring Prisons

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Roger Bolton Roger Bolton 12:38, Friday, 26 October 2012

Roger Bolton


It is becoming pretty clear that the late Jimmy Savile was very lucky not to spend his last years in prison.

If he had, how should he have been treated by a radio reporter?

With understanding or with condemnation or neutrally?

In Feedback this week we talked to the producers of two different radio programmes about prison.

"Dying Inside", presented and co-produced by Rex Bloomstein, examined the increasing number of older prisoners, many of whom are unlikely to see the outside world again.

In a second series , "The Bishop and the Prisoner", produced by Rosie Dawson, James Jones, Bishop of Liverpool, who believes everyone can be redeemed, had his beliefs put to the test.

Both producers claim that we must know and understand what is happening inside. To understand is not to condone, but it often makes easy condemnation more difficult. Most of us wish to turn away from the unpleasant, however necessary it might be. Are we cowards to do so?

If we eat meat, must we be prepared to visit the abattoir and the factory farm, if not in person then via television or radio?

A more extreme argument was sometimes advanced against capital punishment. If you weren't prepared to carry it out in person, you should not ask someone else to do it for you. A variation of that argument applies to the military today. If we aren't prepared to kill in extreme circumstances, how can we ask young men and women to do it for us? Looking back on the post war political debate is seems to me that prison is one of those subjects where calm informed debate is most difficult. I would argue that the Troubles, the Cold War, and Education fall into the same difficult category.

I hope you feel that our Feedback discussion did let a little light in.

Fortunately there is more to Feedback this week than prison and Jimmy Savile. For those who enjoyed the Chicken Forecast we have a new contribution to the genre.

Here is the Fishing forecast.

Do please keep them coming

Roger Bolton

PS For the record, I am too young to have done national service and fired a gun in anger, I have visited prison, I have commissioned programmes on factory farming and almost vomited in the cutting room as I looked at the rushes, and I did have a holiday job working in a bacon factory, counting the live pigs that went in one end, and the bacon and bone meal that came out the other. I'm afraid that last experience only put me off bacon for two weeks.

Roger Bolton presents Feedback on Radio 4.

  • Listen to this week's Feedback
  • Listen again to this week's Feedback, get in touch with the programme, find out how to join the listener panel or subscribe to the podcast on the Feedback web page.
  • Read all of Roger's Feedback blog posts.


  • Comment number 1.

    I do not believe that the two producers interviewed succeeded in rebutting the points made by several listeners to Feedback.

    Rosie Dawson's point about prisoners also being victims will indeed have raised more than a few eyebrows amongst listeners: the eyebrows of those who have been victims of crime will have shot through the stratosphere! I can understand why the Bishop of Liverpool would come out with the sweeping statement that he was sure society had failed a particular prisoner, but should the BBC be giving so much airtime to a cleric to present his hotly contested views on redemption unchallenged?

    Rex Bloomstein asserted that his programme helped to show us what is actually happening in prison. This is correct. But I think the public would be more interested in understanding, for example, why our prisons are awash with illicit drugs than hearing the grievances of imprisoned paedophiles and rapists. The sex offender interviewed posed the question "Where do we draw the line?" when considering whether there should be an upper limit on the age at which people can be sent to prison. The simple answer is that disability and old age should not render sex criminals ineligible for jail.

    The item on getting tickets to BBC programmes was very, very interesting. The present system would seem to be unfit for purpose. The prospect of being turned away from the recording of a programme despite having a ticket and after having travelled many miles would be infuriating to say the least! If almost all of these programmes are recorded in London then people living outside the capital would seem to be at a considerable disadvantage. The BBC may claim it is fair not to charge for these tickets, but is it fair to effectively exclude many people from attending if they take place so far from where they live? Are programmes recorded throughout the country, not just in London?


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