I am off to a family Christmas tomorrow, to enjoy being a father and a grandfather, and to over-indulge just a little.
I shall though, and I hope that you will join me in this, spare a minute's thought while surrounded by my family for those of life's victims who pass through my world from time to time: the unwanted or unlucky child that is handed like a parcel between well-meaning but ineffectual official 'carers' until, expecting nothing from life and failed by the rest of us he or she drops into the dreamworld of drugs or the easy-life fantasy of violent crime. One day the party is over and prison beckons. Crimes sometimes have two victims - the one robbed or terrified or injured, the other whose life is henceforth going nowhere.
Nearly 80,000 people will spend Christmas in prison. Some of them will have to be kept away from the rest of us until old age and infirmity render them harmless - some even longer than that, so awful were their crimes. Others are mentally ill, addicted, confused or inadequate. Still more are simply incapable of making their way in the modern world. Yet another group are foreign drug smugglers who expected to be sent straight home if caught, and who are serving prison sentences of five years and more - all for a fee of few hundred pounds. A few are there because of a decision for which I and my colleagues are responsible.
We must remain in awe of what it is that we have to impose on our fellow citizens, but remain prepared to do what we have to. If, like me, you are one of the lucky ones, think of those tens of thousands of harsh grey cells and count your blessings.
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