Thursday, October 12, 2006

Reading Gaol

A good few years ago I paid a routine visit to Reading Prison. It's been converted to a remand centre now, and has lost the anti-climbing cylinder that used to top its walls, but in those days it was a local prison. We were taken round by a very experienced officer who was close to retirement, and who came out with a phrase that sometimes gives me pause for thought:- "If I may say so, sir, you ladies and gentlemen send people here too late and for too long. They all have a good cry on their first night and for two or three weeks they are scared and confused. After that they get used to it and get on with doing their time".

We thanked him as we were leaving, and I said as a parting shot:- "There can't be many other prisons that have had a famous poem written about them".

"Eh?" he replied.

I know not whether Laws be right,
Or whether Laws be wrong;
All that we know who lie in gaol
Is that the wall is strong;
And that each day is like a year,
A year whose days are long.

The full text is here.

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