Prison & prisoners

There has been a hellish fire in a prison in Honduras. More than 300 prisoners have been killed. In the year 2012, we still haven’t worked out what it is that we do with miscreants & others who break the social norms.

It turns out that many of the prisoners burnt to death were not convicted of anything. Many of them were awaiting trial. It is likely that many of them were in fact not guilty of anything. In Honduras, the prisons are full to overcrowding; but are they not everywhere? What is that has made society so dysfunctional.  Instead of crowing over this person or that, this bad person or that bad person being locked up, would it not make more sense to try to look at the causes?. Religion is at the root of much that is wrong. Religion can teach people, especially children the difference between right & wrong. But it can also give people the sense that they cannot be touched.

The cry is lock them up lock them up. It is as though that solves something. It is as though miscreants are not real people. In a sense, we have come some way. There was a time when the death sentence was almost de rigueur for almost anything. When the Press Gang prevailed. When everyone, especially the poor & downtrodden knew their place. Until quite recently, the 18th century, public hangings were commonplace. But many of the prisons are the same ones that existed in the 18th century. Apart from anything else, they have never been aired, inside is the same stale air that has been there for over a hundred years. It is difficult to know what is the worst aspect of the prisons themselves but the necessity for them, prisons, is a failure of society. People do not appear to have a moral education; that is they leave school without knowing the difference between right & wrong. Is it possible to change bad people into good people; perhaps sometimes it isn’t. But they are members of the same species as us for all that.

Most of my friends believe that it is wrong to lock up fellow human beings for long periods, for life even. Often young people. In USA life means life. Life in a US prison is well documented. It is like some sort of hell. It is somehow death before life, except that inmates as they are called do tend to die in prison.

Prisoners, themselves, are considered some sort of sub species. They are considered to be not like us, somehow they are considered not human beings.

In the Honduran prison, some of them, maybe the vast majority of the prisoners, have indeed done some terrible things. It is understandable that in general people want them locked away. But it is not the answer. The prisons are getting bigger or at least more overcrowded. At this rate, there are going to be more people in prison than not. The law of the jungle prevails in many prisons & the prisons appear to be in fact in the control of the criminals. Drug dealing is rife & indeed much organised crime is directed from crime lords inside prisons.

It is true that nobody has yet come up with a better alternative to prison for really dangerous criminals. But the problem has never been really addressed. The will has never been there. Moral education doesn’t seem to exist.

Whatever the rights & wrongs of the situation, locking hundreds of people up & then setting fire to the building is not the answer. Presumably it wasn’t done deliberately but in a sense it was done by omission. There don’t seem to have been any precautions taken against fire breaking out. It seems that nobody on site had keys to the cells.

Crime & punishment is indeed a thorny problem as indeed is the question, what is prison for? Really prison is mainly a punishment. Punishment at least in this context is society’s revenge upon miscreants. But prison could be for rehabilitation. People get used to prison; indeed people get used to anything. That is the nature of the human mind.

There is much that can be done to rehabilitate prisoners. Many prisoners, very many, are illiterate. Many come from broken homes, probably the majority. Many come from crime families, many come from an environment where crime is considered the norm, where crime is not considered wrong. In Mexico, for example, it seems that the crime wave amounts to civil war, so well armed are the drug barons.

But the question which is always asked is, is it more expensive, expensive to the rest of us that is, to lock up people indefinitely or to do what is somewhat laughingly called rehabilitate them.

It does seem that violence in Honduras, especially drugs related crime is a very big problem, more so than many other countries, although Mexico for example has a bigger problem. But prisons over most of the World are getting bigger. There are more inmates in them & there are more prisons but even so they are becoming more overcrowded.

We, the inhabitants of the planet in the early stages of the 21st century seem to be caught in a circle of violence where there is more & more crime, especially violent crime. More & more people are being punished by being locked up but it is doing nothing to alleviate the situation.

There has been much soul searching about the fire in Honduras. Many who normally have no sympathy for prisoners whatever their condition & whatever crime they have committed seem in this case to be expressing some sympathy for them, the inmates. Many have no sympathy for prisoners even if they are proved to be not guilty. But for all that, for the really terrible things they may or may not have done they are human beings. With luck, a lot of luck it must be said, this could be a new beginning.

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Russia TV

It seems that Russians are interested in what British men do. InFactuation Productions made a film with Natalia Birlakina of the Russian television channel  Igratv for Russian viewers.  It seems that one of the main things that British men do is go to the pub & play rugby.  Well, I have played rugby at school & do go to the pub, though not very often. I don’t even know anybody these days who plays rugby, one or two who have played. We filmed inside a pub for her & several British men & one Japanese man talked about …the pub. We filmed training at Fulham rugby club. In fact Russians do play rugby so it might seem not that strange to them.

The game that men all over the World really like is football. We are no different from the Russians or anyone else in that. In England the 2nd most popular sport isn’t rugby. It is cricket. In fact there are lots of sports in England that more popular  than rugby, including golf & tennis.

The truth is that the Uk is so cosmopolitan that nothing is typical. In some ways Britain is as Ancient Rome was…all roads led to Rome, these days all roads or rather trains & planes, lead to London.

Somehow rugby & drinking do go together. Part of the rugby ethos is to get drunk after the game. At one time rugby did acquire a certain popularity, when England was doing well in this World Cup or that. There are some British men who go the pub & drink beer inside a pub. There are some men  who love rugby.

So Russian television viewers will see some men going into a pub & one of them emerging at the door & downing a pint in one.

I am sure that in this country we have stereotypes of other countries & I am sure that what we believe about other countries is just as inaccurate especially……well where do I start…Frenchmen who wear berets, windmills in Holland,

This is the InFactuation Team at work.

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Visit to Temple.

InFactuation Productions went to the Temple, London EC1 on Thursday 28th of June. The buildings are really rather beautiful. They remain there, unchangeable, as a monument to the independence of the judiciary.

Tawanda Kazoka is working with us to make a film about the lack of opportunities for young people in Zambia & about the issue of corruption. As part of the project we interviewed Mr Michael Sullivan QC a senior barrister who has had much to do with campaigns against corruption in different parts of the world. He had much to say about the issue of corruption. He is a much respected barrister & he has dedicated much of his time to exposing corruption & the consequences which follow from it.

Elections in Zambia are imminent. Free & fair are relative terms. They have elections but the odds are weighed heavily in favour of the governing party because the official press generally expounds the version of events of the governing party. Indeed the government believes that this state of affairs is fair, almost the natural order of events. In spite of the famine in East Africa which is exacerbated by climate change, no fault of the people of Africa, there are several success stories in Africa, the most notable & the widely publicised is that of Ghana, in fact the first African state to break free from colonialism.

In the pictures above are Max, our excellent cameraman, Tawanda & Michael Sullivan. Also in the pictures is Mr Sullivan’s puil;, Hugo.

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Iran project

The Islamic Revolution in 1979 returned Iran to the Middle Ages. The autocratic rule of the Shah was ripe for the picking. There were many human rights abuses under the Shah. When he was the autocratic ruler, Iran seemed ripe for the picking. But once he was overthrown, Iran entered a new dark age.  Biblical punishments returned.

It always seems incredible to us in the largely secular West that Iran has reverted to fundamental Islam where men pray 5 times a day, men are allowed lots of wives, punishments include amputating limbs, stoning to death, gauging eyes out. Women are often stoned to death. Women who are raped are usually considered the perpetrators. It is considered really important in Islamic society that a woman finds a husband (often, very often, these marriages turn out to be abusive) but women who are raped cannot find a husband. A raped woman is a shamed woman. She is not considered the victim. In fact on occasion it is woman who is punished when she is gang raped.

Instead of the revolution moderating itself, it has gone from bad to worse. There was the eight year war with Iraq. Both countries ended up being soaked in blood but mainly Iran. Since then repression has increased & several hundred people are executed every year. Dissent is stamped upon with a zeal reminiscent of the Soviet Union. But Iran has somewhat gone under the radar because of events in North Africa & the Middle East.

June the 20 has been designated a Global Day in support of Political Prisoners in Iran. This is the Facebook link

InFactuation Productions are making a film about human rights abuses in Iran. If there is anyone would like to take part & work with us on this very important project do please get in touch. You can e-mail me on my private e-mail address or my business e-mail

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Strange this blogging business. You gets hits for this or that entry. But who are these mystery people who take the trouble to read this & other blogs this & other entries but don’t reveal themselves. They could be anywhere in the World.  Who are they & did they find it useful and / or interesting? Was it helpful? And then again why do I do it? I do it because I want to proselytise. I hold opinions which like a lot of opinionated people I hold to be true. And interesting. But this is the nature of pluralism. We can all hold an opinion.

I am endlessly pleased when I find someone has looked at my writing. In a way I am just reverting to what I did at school pre teens when I always came of the class for essay writing.

When you place a blog, you don’t know even anybody is going to look at it. Anyone at all that is. It can always be that no-one at all will look at it. Sometimes no-one looks at the blog for days & then there is a rush. Strange. There are billions of blogs & I gather most them never get looked at. But many do. Many have many hits. They are on online diary. (Therapy maybe) you hear journalists defending their position as being in some way superior to bloggers. , But they are doing just that & nothing more, defending their position. Most journalists, I won’t mention names after all I don’t want to be sued for defamation but I think we all know who we are talking about, are mediocre writers with mediocre opinions & their knowledge isn’t amazing. A blogger is someone on the ground who actually knows what he is talking & feels genuinely & strongly about what he is writing. Sometimes the English is not perfect, the spelling is execrable but the passion & usually the knowledge is there. Put it this way. What would you prefer? A journalist who goes to Bagdad, checks into a comfortable hotel wanders around, talks to a few, maybe a lot, of people & then writes a piece for say the Daily Telegraph or even the Guardian or someone on the ground who lives there, has witnessed all the atrocities & the conflict & the suffering arising from not only this but also the lack of electricity & so on & writes from the perspective of an insider? After all it is better to have Kasparov’s thoughts on his own games, rather than someone else who is not nearly so accomplished, someone who has achieved in at least in comparison, very little.

Blogging? It is one of the great innovations.

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The funding problem

Funding for a small company is a devilishly difficult business. Even some big organisations complain about lack of funding & these days you even hear of big projects failing because of lack of funding. There is so much money swilling around. Money is found for weapons of war, royal weddings, footballers are paid tens of thousands of pounds each week, parliamentarians keep their noses in the trough & keep awarding themselves huge sums of money, apparently.  Goldman Sachs & other financial institutions have billions of pounds swilling around. Like pigs with their noses in the trough, financial institutions just help themselves to the wealth created by the sweat & suffering of others. In fact Oxfam has a turnover of £300m. How they have managed to grow that big – well it is just amazing. Well done them. But one does have the impression that they don’t do as much with all that money as they could.

InFactuation Productions make documentaries & educational films, films about social issues. On the whole our films are commissioned. In moving into making our own films, films not commissioned but our own work we need to find outside funding. On the whole documentaries don’t have a wide audience. This is a pity because film is such a powerful way of influencing people . I would say the most powerful way there is. More powerful than the printed word. More powerful than theatre, just about. More powerful than art, even Picasso’s Guernica….

It is a pity that everybody wants a quid pro quo. David Cameron’s big society doesn’t exist really. The mantra really is, what’s in it for me? in a very narrow minded way. Mrs Thatcher said there is no such thing as society. She also referred to the Great Car Society. She was a mover & shaker alright but not in a good way, at least not in the long run. Some of the things she did were right but for the wrong reasons. She closed down the coal mining industry.  The burning of coal is one of the main, possibly the main source of  CO2 emissions. Mrs Thatcher closed down mines for other reasons. Probably she just didn’t like Arthur Scargill.  Ironically for David Cameron it was Mrs Thatcher who destroyed society.  If we were (or so we have been told) trying to raise money for a big blockbuster (funny word that, I wonder what the origin is) like Avatar, then we would stand a better chance. Up to a point it does seem, that the more you ask for, the more likely you are to be successful. Certainly the more publicity a big company receives outweighs the general well-being of society in its considerations about whether to donate money to this or that cause.

In trying to get funding for projects you tend to go all round the houses end up where you started; the only difference being that you have used up loads of time & energy. Up to a point you end with a bit of experience. Of course films do get made. But the problem is that it seems to be a closed shop. In a sense money is not the main problem. It is the status of getting hold of sponsors. Somehow corporate sponsorship gives a film an extra something an extra presence as it were, some import. Money is important, especially in this day & age, when money can buy (almost anything.) Without money you can’t live. Without money you just can’t afford to do good things, in fact there is little you can do.

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There are signs of Spring in the air. It feels warmer. People are more cheerful. Trees are beginning to bloom. London is becoming busy from tourists flocking here. Soon the clocks will change. Then it will be Easter. Then we will be wearing less overcoats & hats. People will be talking to each other more. Eating  alfresco. It is in Spring that we should be making resolutions to do better etc, not at the turn of the year when we are just trying to survive. People feel cold, hungover, broke at the turn of the year. New Year resolutions last – well – not very long.

Let us welcome Spring in the same way as our forefathers; with rejoicing.

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