What’s it like in a Youth Offender Institute?

There are often newspaper exposes of how cushy it is in prison: drugs on tap, computer games… a bit like a luxury hotel. Well a court case agains the Ministry of Justice is shedding some light on what Feltham Youth Offender Institute is like for some of guests.

  • locked in his cell for 23 and a half hours a day and denied the education to which he is legally entitled
  • let out of his cell for only half an hour a day to make phonecalls, take a shower or be given medication.
  • not allowed into the gym
  • one-third of imprisoned children spent time in isolation

Feltham youth offender

Crime as Seen by a Photographer

Just over 2 minutes into this BBC art news report there is a section about Arthur Fellig’s photography of Depression era New York. Fellig’s photography created a debate many years ago in journalism which still continues to this day about where the limits lie in showing images of violence in the news.  Murder is my Business is the name of the exhibition.


Arthur Fellig apparently earned the nickname Weegee during his early career as a freelance press photographer in New York City. His apparent sixth sense for crime often led him to a scene well ahead of the police. Observers likened this sense, actually derived from tuning his radio to the police frequency, to the Ouija board, the popular fortune-telling game. Spelling it phonetically, Fellig took Weegee as his professional name.

Watch TV to help your Crime and Punishment knowledge

My parents were strict on how much TV we could watch. This was pre-Internet days, so the biggest thing to pull us away from doing the homework, household chores, doing sport or practising the flute was TV.  Only being allowed to watch 30 minutes TV a day felt like torture so when I chose to do Media Studies GCSE the joy of being able to say “I’ve got to watch A, B and C for homework” was a welcome passport to TV heaven.

So what is out there in the realms of television that might help you relax from over zealous revision and increase your knowledge of crime and punishment at the same time?


Up there as a number one priority for people trying to learn about crime and punishment has got to be Netflix’s Making a Murderer. Filmed over 10 years, the real-life thriller follows a DNA exoneree who, while exposing police corruption, becomes a suspect in a grisly new crime. It will have you gripped from start to finish.

The Independent lists an excellent collection of documentaries that those people suffering from the demise of Making a Murderer can turn to when wanted to continue following real life storylines about crime.

Focusing on the death penalty you might watch Redemption with Jamie Foxx playing Stanley Tookie Williams or Let Him Have It with a young Chris Eccleston playing Derek Bentley.

Or perhaps you’d prefer some fictional characters. Broadchurch has recently finished on Series 3 with its police investigations, causes of crime and court scenes. Whereas Line of Duty can offer police corruption with some intermittent court cases too.

Tariq Ramadan, Oxford academic, says Muslims should reform their minds

An extended interview in the Guardian with Muslim academic Tariq Ramadan provides fresh debate about the state of Islam and whether it should adapt to modern society.


Ten Things You Thought You Knew about Islam is the catchy name of the appendix of Ramadan’s new books where he states his beliefs about Islam’s need to change…

Ramadan explains that Sharia is a guide to ethics, not simply a legal code. Corporal and capital punishments are the result of a “brutal and literalist” application of it and should be suspended. His approach to gay people seems to be love the sinner, hate the sin – a conservative one in the context of very recent progress in the west, but hardly incompatible with life here, as millions of traditional Christians demonstrate. Islam considers modest dress for men and women an obligation, although not an essential one. Ramadan wants Muslims, particularly western ones, to think of themselves as absolutely part of modern society, and to push it in the direction of human rights and equality of opportunity. He is clearly frustrated by the reduction of his faith into questions of hijab or homosexuality by non-Muslims.

Let’s just clarify what Sharia Law is. It comes from a combination of sources including the Qur’an (the Muslim holy book), the Hadith (sayings and conduct of the prophet Muhammad) and fatwas (the rulings of Islamic scholars). People often hear of the gory elements of Shar’iah when severe punishments like having your hand chopped off for stealing are spoken about. Students doing about crime and punishment for the RS GCSE will need to know something about Shar’iah.

Justice Secretary says there’s no quick fix to cut prisoner numbers

The Justice Secretary Liz Truss has said that growing prison populations shouldn’t be cut by making sentences shorter and that the bigger numbers of prisoners is due to more criminals serving time for violence and sex crimes.

With the most recent figures putting the population of inmates in England and Wales at 85,523 – an increase of almost 90% since the 1990s, there are calls to reduce the number of people in our prisons. The Prison Reform Trust calculates that an average of 20,000 prisoners are held in overcrowded conditions in England and Wales. Such overcrowding can seriously reduce the chances of rehabilitating prisoners.

Canadian Shames UK 15 year old Cyberbully

In a week where we’ve had school assemblies placing the spotlight on cyber safety (reported here on the BBC) it is fitting that we read how a Canadian woman tracked down the 15 year old English boy who’d been leaving negative and hateful comments under her Instagram photos. Jessica Davey-Quantick contacted the boy’s parents and also his school where he had his phone confiscated and was temporarily excluded (suspended).


Life must mean life

The 2016 AQA Religious Studies Morality paper had a question asking students whether criminals who receive a life sentence should stay in prison for their whole life. Students exam answers gave both points of view and then arrived at a conclusion which showed the students’ point of view. Well today in the news European judges have agreed that British courts can give prison sentences which say ‘life means life’ for the most disgusting crimes, such as mass murder.

Life should mean life – it protects the rest of the society from a dangerous criminal; a harsh sentence will deter other from committing a similar crime; it is retribution for the victim and victim’s family that the criminal loses their freedom forever; the Christian ideas of an eye for eye, tooth for tooth from the Old Testament implies an evil act should be met with a hard punishment.

Criminals should be released eventually – there should be the opportunity for reform; some Christians think that only God will judge our sins like in the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats; Christians believe that Jesus taught forgiveness by dying on the cross so everyone’s sins are forgiven; “forgive them father for they know not what they do” is a key quote from the Bible which shows that people are sinful due to their free will and so should be forgiven (which Lauren Hill sang about); and the old favourite from the Parable of the Good Samaritan “love thy neighbour”!