Government as serial rights killer

The latest of the death- of- a- thousand- cuts approach to prison policy. Cut off offenders in non-mainstream religious groups from specific spiritual guidance from religious leaders (unless the advisers are willing to pay to visit out of their own pockets).

Once again all this arose from a single incident that core Tory supporters didn’t like – funding for a Wikka priestess. Once again the Minister reacted within nano-seconds of the controversy coming to light. Once again, without anything approaching a reasonable policy discussion or any consultation of inmates affected (this is required by law) the hammer came down on a huge swath of useful programs. And the Charter be damned!

This time the ball is significantly in the court of the Christian denominations who will retain funding and who will be expected to do the impossible – provide faith and liturgy-specific guidance to inmates.

The government contends that a Chaplain should be able to provide spiritual and moral support and advice to any person, like they do in the Armed Forces, where there are very few non-Christian Chaplains. This is a PATENTLY STUPID AND MISLEADING rationale. Armed forces personnel can attend religious services of their choice and can otherwise communicate with religious groups very easily. Inmates, behind walls in isolated locations with no access to internet and very low access to even telephones are pretty much stuck.

We need to communicate with the heads of the Roman Catholic and Protestant churches and ask them to intervene here. And we need to speak out big time and provide support for protests, political and judicial, to put a stop to this.

To coin a phrase, at long last, Minister, have you no sense of decency?

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