London’s Bail Bale

SallyB2
By SallyB2 Last edited 112 months ago
London’s Bail Bale

2601.prison.jpg Gor what a bunch of NIMBYists we are in London. In the week that sees residents determined to thwart plans to turn Spitalfields into a club venue, and the month that Kensington residents complained about the Gaza protests, we now see rising fears about government plans to extend the use of bail houses in the capital. One in Lewisham has actually been closed following complaints.

The government has trialed a scheme in several cities wherein prisoners who are due for bail or who have not yet been tried can be tagged and released into the community to live in a ‘bail house’. The houses are run by private contractor ClearSprings. The idea seems more humane, and is certainly more cost efficient than keeping them banged up. David Hanson, the Justice Minister, has said that the system allows children to rejoin their mothers and has helped some offenders to forge new careers. Just because one of these hostels has been less than successful does not detract from the overall premise and promise of the scheme. We can understand the fears of parents living near such properties, but those accused of or sentenced for violent crimes, racial offences or those involving children are not eligible for the facility.

Now for a city that prides itself on its multi-everything-ism, this idea should barely ripple the surface of the urban pond. Of course we can (and must) take the rough with the smooth. We all live and breathe recycling: where better place to start than with those fellow human beings who need a little help with rehabilitation. The day that our society stops giving people the benefit of the doubt and ceases to want to help - well, that’ll be time for us all to bail out.

Get over it, London.

Open Prison by © A K Foto via the Londonist flickr pool.

Last Updated 26 January 2009

BailHouse

Get over it? Well of course, if you actually live next door to ClearSprings bail accommodation, I respect your opinion entirely. Good on you. You put me to shame. Despite the ear-splitting music at three in the morning on the other side of a thin party wall, the syringes in the garden where your children play and obscene racist remarks emanating from the completely unsupervised short-term accommodation for homeless criminals next door, you have managed to maintain a concern for your fellow man which I am completely unable to muster. And this is despite the fact that you were never consulted in even the smallest way before your property was rendered unsaleable so that you cannot even move away. You are indeed a jewel amongst men/women. If, however, you have no direct experience of what you are lecturing the rest of us about, then perhaps you are the one who needs to get over it.

However, your post gives me renewed hope. Would you and any other similarly public-spirited individuals out there please write to David Hanson at The Ministry of Justice, 102 Petty France, LONDON SW1H 9AJ, explaining that you would be delighted to do your civic duty and live next door to ClearSprings. This is a project which needs people like you. And there are rather a lot of us who want out ...

SallyB

Hey Bailhouse!
Sorry to hear you are having such trouble: of course it's not easy. Where projects like this cause local concern, then of course they should be reappraised, and it is unacceptable if your councillors/MP aren't listening to the worries of residents.
But as it happens I do have direct experience of these issues. I live and work on Peckham High Street, wherein I am met with frequent racist abuse, and the back of our property is often decorated with syringes, prophylactics, empty beer cans etc. There are various halfway hostels in the area, which do attract a range of 'people needing help', some of whom scare the hell out of me.
But I stand by my article.

BailHouse

You sound young and idealistic. Nothing wrong with that. London contains far too many cynical old crabs like me. That's why it's so important that we can crawl away to more suitable locations; Bexhill-On-Sea, for example. But you see, now that I share a party wall with ClearSprings, that option is closed to me, because although it can behave covertly, I cannot. Should I decide to sell, I would have to declare my neighbours on the Home Information Pack. And although you presumably wouldn't turn a hair at investing your life savings in a house which shares a party wall with an unsupervised bail house, frankly there aren't many potential buyers out there who share your views. My only small asset is my home. And I don't fancy growing old next door to a bail house.

Incidentally, MPs and councillors can do little for residents who are in my position. This is a centralised project which is operated by the Ministry of Justice. It has devised a protocol which divests local authorities of almost all power and gives them just five days in which to lodge any objections.

SallyB

Bailhouse you do have my sympathy. I did not know of the insidiousness of the Ministry of Justice - it sounds quite Orwellian.
Next time I write anything with a property slant I shall endeavour to refer to this legislation to draw attention to it.
I take it that you have remonstrated with said David Hanson yourself? What was the Ministry's reply?