Jan 102013

At the office today we received the news that two of the prisons where we work are going to close. We heard through the BBC, having had no previous warning. I have my views on the closures, which I posted to my Facebook profile earlier but have since removed, since on reflection I think it’s better to keep them to myself. I don’t speak for the charity. A friend has, however, posted the text of a letter he wrote to his MP after reading my original post. His letter reminded me that while governments are elected, entitled and expected to take difficult decisions such as these all the time, they Read full post >>

Apr 192012

I’ve been volunteering with London Citizens on the What Londoners Want campaign. Those of you who live in London will be aware of the Mayoral election coming up on 3 May. London Citizens has been conducting a series of listening events over recent months, and have come up with a Citizens’ Agenda covering five main points: affordable housing, better facilities for young people, a living wage, and better governance. Under each of the five headings are a set of commitments that London Citizens (a network of community organisations) will make, and a set of commitments they want the next mayor to make. The campaign is an attempt to get beyond Read full post >>

Apr 142012
Money and gift

I remember first encountering the idea of a gift economy at university, during a course on the anthropology of religion. The idea of obligation interested me: where such an economy exists, there is an obligation to give, an obligation to accept, and an obligation to reciprocate. My tutor used an example to explain: imagine that you open your front door in the morning to find a parcel on your doorstep. It is clearly wrapped as a gift, and labelled as beingfor you; there is no indication who it is from; and the contents, when you open it, turn out to be highly valuable to you – not trivial, not a Read full post >>

Dec 212011
When the prisoners ran the prison: Massachusetts, 1973

I stumbled across an astonishing story on the US Prison Culture blog. It’s about a prison rebellion in 1972 and 1973 in MCI-Walpole (now known as MCI-Cedar Junction). The MCI part stands for Massachussets Correctional Institution. The early 1970s had already seen one of the worst lows in US prison history, with the Attica Prison uprising, when over 1,000 prisoners had taken over the prison in response to harsh conditions and treatment. Taking hostages, they made a series of demands about better treatment. The confrontation ended five days later with the violent deaths of 43 people, including hostages, as control over the prison was retaken by state police and National Read full post >>