And so to this post's focus - Prison Wisdom. Those of you familiar with the Jago story will know that Jago spent nearly two decades behind bars before he had reached the age of 40 - and that he had sane and civilised views about the state of our penal system and the need for radical reform. He wrote about these matters in his autobiography: 'The Burglar's Bedside Companion' (1975) and his status as a prison reformer receives its due attention in my biography of the burglar-turned-artist. I have already published a post on the subject that you can access by pressing the link here.
|Strangeways prison riot in 1990|
David's email brought the subject of prison reform crunching down on my desk. He had been trawling through the Guardian newspaper archive online for his own research purposes when he decided to tap the name of Jago Stone into the search engine. He got a tantalising glimpse of a letter containing that name - and emailed me immediately. I took out my 7-day free trial on the Ancestry website - Ancestry have served me well; Jago's birth, marriage and death certificates have come my way through their services - and made the full discovery. On Thursday April 3, 1975, the Guardian
had published a letter from Jago Stone who signs himself as 'Artist, author, ex-con.' with the address: The Old Rectory, Banbury, Oxon.
The event that had triggered Jago's letter was a riot in Winchester prison and the letter beside Jago's takes us further into that episode in the history of this stain on our so-called civilised values - life in our prisons. Here it is:
Remember, you are reading about a crisis in our prisons in the mid-70s. The image that opens this blog is of the Strangeways prison riot in 1990. The problems are systemic and endemic. In 2015, the author of the report into the Strangeways riot - Lord Woolf - was calling for another UK enquiry into the state of our prisons as conditions were as bad as they were in 1990 when the dramatic siege went on for 25 days, two people died, and hundreds were injured.
Back to the mid-70s - and this time we have moved on a year to the Hull prison riots of 1976.