Writing in Politics.co.uk, Frances Crook (chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform) decries the latest nasty Tory tough-on-crime initiative: denying books from the outside to prisoners, many of whom spend more than sixteen hours per day in their cells. This follows on a ban on homemade birthday cards from prisoners’ children, and a ban on underwear and other comfort items from outside (women prisoners are hit very hard by this as they are not supplied with undergarments otherwise and spend months wearing the same underwear and bras).
As Crook points out, banning books, birthday cards and underwear has nothing to do with rehabilitation for criminals, and everything to do with pandering to a vicious public who want to see everyone who is locked up made as miserable as possible.
"Last November new rules were introduced so that families are no longer permitted to send in small items to prisoners. Children are not allowed to send a homemade birthday card. Prisoners with a particular expertise or interests cannot receive magazines, no matter how innocuous it might be to want to know about bird watching or steam trains.
The rules apply to clothing too. Prisoners are no longer permitted to have underwear sent in and so have to wear pants and socks worn by many other people. Women prisoners are particularly hard hit by this rule as they are not provided with a uniform and are dependent on family for underwear and outerwear. If underwear cannot be sent in, women are forced to wear the same pants and bras for months.
Book banning is in some ways the most despicable and nastiest element of the new rules. Prison libraries are supplied and funded by local authorities and have often been surprisingly good, but so many libraries are now closing and cutting costs that inevitably the first service to feel the pinch is in prison.
An inspection report published on March 18th on Wetherby prison, which holds 180 young boys, praised the jail for only containing the children in their cells for 16 hours a day during the week and 20 hours a day at weekends. Whilst many will not want to read a book to pass these endless hours, many boys I have met in prison do indeed read avidly.”
I read a post on tumblr a minute ago suggesting that this is happening, I found it so sickening that I had to do some research, and found out it was true!
I literally have no words to describe how foul this is.
Criminal Justice and Criminal Investigation, Keystone College
Moais sin terminar en Rano Raraku on Flickr.
Rano Raraku es un volcán de Isla de Pascua y en sus laderas se encuentra la toba volcánica, materia prima con la que fueron elaborados casi todos los moais de la isla, para ser transportados posteriormente a sus emplazamientos definitivos. En este sitio se encuentran más de 400 moais y constituye uno de los lugares con mayor importancia arqueológica de la cultura rapa nui. apuntesyviajes.blogspot.com/2012/09/isla-de-pascua-rano-r…
*whispers into the night* someone needs to write a fic where Cecil gets all sexually flustered by Carlos’ badboy behavior like eating toast, believing in mountains,and using pens
oKAY WHAT THE SHIT IS NIGHT VALE
Archaeology, the College of Wooster
In 2002, having spent more than three years in one residence for the first time in my life, I got called for jury duty. I show up on time, ready to serve. When we get to the voir dire, the lawyer says to me, “I see you’re an astrophysicist. What’s that?” I answer, “Astrophysics is the laws of physics, applied to the universe—the Big Bang, black holes, that sort of thing.” Then he asks, “What do you teach at Princeton?” and I say, “I teach a class on the evaluation of evidence and the relative unreliability of eyewitness testimony.” Five minutes later, I’m on the street.
A few years later, jury duty again. The judge states that the defendant is charged with possession of 1,700 milligrams of cocaine. It was found on his body, he was arrested, and he is now on trial. This time, after the Q&A is over, the judge asks us whether there are any questions we’d like to ask the court, and I say, “Yes, Your Honor. Why did you say he was in possession of 1,700 milligrams of cocaine? That equals 1.7 grams. The ‘thousand’ cancels with the ‘milli-’ and you get 1.7 grams, which is less than the weight of a dime.” Again I’m out on the street.
Neil deGrasse Tyson (via sarasleepygirl)
They don’t want smart people on the jury.
They want people they can dupe into a guilty verdict, especially for poc
Kindhearted Alice alone accepted her. Ted’s new girl. This slim, self-assured creature — their schoolmate for seven years, and yet still somehow untrustworthy. Somehow the kind of person light-years away, not a friendly fellow badger but one of those girls hidden away in dungeons and drawing rooms, set on the shelf and waited on hand and foot until some suitable pure-blood should appear to marry her, a creature somehow delicate and venomous all at once.
But Alice liked her. She liked to hear her talk of her family, she liked how she seemed to miss them (“What do you expect?” she told Amelia, “If Andy hated her family as much as you think she should, then she really would be a little snake, wouldn’t she?”), and only-child Alice even liked the thought of these delicate, beautiful star sisters.
"I had someone clever and brilliantly fun there, always," Andromeda said, "And someone willing to go to the most tremendous lengths to achieve our goals. It’s a kind of loyalty and dedication with her. It isn’t all that different from a Hufflepuff’s, really."
"Well, Bella can’t be all bad," Alice replied, "I’m sure I’d like her if I knew her."
I’ve been thinking a lot about sex and teenage girls this week.
It’s hard not to when the press have been so gleefully and salaciously reporting on all the details of the Jeremy Forrest abduction case. When the new Children’s Laureate, Malorie Blackman, has had the same papers clutching their collective pearls, at her suggestion that there needs to be more sex in YA novels, to offset the damaging messages teenagers are receiving from the prevalence of porn online.
Talking of which, there was also the Robin Thicke video for his number one single, Blurred Lines, which features three fully clothed man, several nude girls cavorting with children’s toys, having their hair brushed, smoke blown in their faces and told “I’ll give you something big enough to tear your ass in two”.
Meanwhile Jinan Younis, a seventeen year old girl who started a feminist society at her school in response to how she saw her friends suffering as a direct result of their gender was met with responses like “feminism doesn’t mean they don’t like the D, they just haven’t found one to satisfy them yet,” from her male classmates.
So, is it any wonder that I can’t stop thinking about sex and teenage girls?
The teenage girl is not a one-size-fits-all entity. When I was fifteen, the girls in my class were busy dealing with their newfound sexuality in different ways. Half of them channelled all these new feelings that they weren’t sure what to do with into fancying some fairly innocuous boybander. I love that there is no power mightier than thousands of girls screaming their heads off at the 02 or Manchester arenas.
Then there were the other fifteen year old girls who all dated men in their twenties because they had money and their own cars. By and large, they didn’t seem unduly threatened by having a relationship with someone older than them. On the contrary, they got off on the social cachet and would callously dump their twenty something boyfriends on a whim. Besides, have you ever spent time with a fifteen year old boy? You have? Then you’d understand why no self-respecting fifteen year old girl would want to go out with one of them. But this is why we have the age of consent to protect all the different types of teenage girls, from the shy ones who write Mrs Harry Styles on their pencil cases to the ones who seem worldly and sophisticated because they date older men, but who you wouldn’t trust to do their homework unsupervised.
When I was fifteen, I vacillated between the two camps. Most of the passion and yearning that turned me inside out on an hourly basis was directed at Morrissey from The Smiths and writing him heartfelt letters when I should have been doing GCSE coursework. But there were other times when I was made painfully aware that I existed in this strange hinterland of not quite a girl, not yet a woman but I didn’t have Britney Spears to articulate that for me.
I had the awkward fumbles at parties that are a teen rite of passage and which left me wondering what all the fuss was about. But there was also the time when I was trying on a dress in a very cool London boutique on a quiet morning when I was bunking off school. All of a sudden the changing room curtain was pulled back by the male shop assistant. Stuff happened, partly because I was curious and partly because I was suddenly in this strange situation that I didn’t have the experience or the maturity to extricate myself from. Afterwards, he let me have the dress for free and I remember walking out of the shop feeling more powerful than I think I’ve ever done in my life. It didn’t fuck me up. It didn’t ruin me. For a week or two, it lifted me up from being an overweight, self-loathing fifteen year old.
But there was another encounter with a friend’s dad in a bathroom that filled me with dread and revulsion. There were times I was flashed at. Times I was told that I might be worth a go once I was legal. Times I was groped and mauled on crowded tube trains, while I was in my school uniform. And those incidents did fuck me up and made me feel that I wasn’t in charge of my own body or what happened to it.
All this was in a time before the internet. Before Facebook. Before selfies. Before the pressure on teenage girls to look sexy without daring to be sexually active, because then you’re a slag and a slut and asking for it, was at the epidemic proportions that it is now.
Also, it was a time when the teen mag ruled supreme. We might not have had Twitter, but we had Just Seventeen. We were armed with information and knowledge. Told time and time again “to be safe, to be sussed, but sex under sixteen is illegal”.
By the time I was working on Just Seventeen in the late 90s, the amount of information and knowledge we could arm our readers with was constantly under threat. I used to hate going into work on the days that a backbench Tory MP desperate for some column inches would rail against the hot bed of vice and iniquity that were teen mags, while making it clear that they’d never actually picked up a teen mag and read it. In between fake ads for Leonardo DiCaprio commemorative plates and perfectly innocent articles on what to do to make your crush notice you, we still had problem pages, we still had articles on sexual health, we still ran real life pieces on relationships and told our readers that “to be sussed was a must but sex under sixteen is illegal”. It was very obvious to me that the main problem the Tory MPs had was our acknowledgement that teenage girls could be sexual beings and that they needed advice and support on dealing with that.
I used to sit on TMAP, the Teenage Magazine Advisory Panel, with other teen mag representatives and some genuinely well intentioned do-gooders and try to explain to them that the Department Of Health ran ads targetting our readers to inform them about sexual health issues in our magazine that we couldn’t run as editorial because the government would try to shut us down.
But now the internet and mobile phones have killed off teen magazines. What they haven’t killed off the need for teenagers to have somewhere to go to get frank, impartial information about everything from their boobs to fancying their best friends to whether they can get pregnant if they do it standing up. The internet is a big, unregulated place where it’s impossible to filter information – which is why a lot of sex education now comes from porn films – so teenagers think that pubic hair is an abomination, blow jobs are mandatory and if you’re not having multiple orgasms then you’re a freak of nature.
In the wider world, from RnB videos to the Daily Mail sidebar of shame to University Facebook pages set up to discuss how rape-able the female student body is, teenagers, boys and girls, are taught that women’s bodies are objects to be pored over, discussed, criticised, used, discarded, belittled. And I’m not going to apologise for coming across as all second wave feminism here. We are sliding dangerously back to a place that I never thought we’d get to, not after all our Take Back The Night marches and riot grrrl fanzines.
I cannot imagine a worse time to be a teenage girl. When eating disorders and self-harming are at an all-time high. When girls are under pressure to send sexy pics of themselves to their male classmates or risk being labelled frigid and tight. And when if you are raped or sexually assaulted, it was probably your fault for drinking or going for a walk with a couple of boys or wearing a short skirt. The onus is still on girls to protect themselves because boys and men are unable to prevent themselves from doing what comes naturally when confronted by the mind-melding power of a female body. It would be much simpler to send out one clear message: don’t rape people.
So, I think teenage girls are getting their rawest deal and this is why I’m so passionate and committed to writing YA novels. My characters have sex. Big whoop. They have awkward, messy teenage sex that causes awkward, messy feelings. They talk about sex. They learn that sex has emotional consequences, good and bad. And sometimes they have sex just because it feels really nice.
That to me is a healthy, important message for my readers. I doubt very much that reading one of my novels has ever forced a teenage girl to go out and have sex but I absolutely know for certain that when they did finally get round to going out and having sex, what they’d read in my novels helped a little bit. And yes, I’ve had reviewers describe the sex in my last YA novel, Adorkable as “gross” and “nasty”. But the gross comment came from a thirteen year old girl and if she thinks sex is gross then I’m happy about that as she isn’t going to be having it anytime soon. The “nasty’ came from a woman in America and says more about her attitude to sex, than it does to my decision to write about two teenagers above the age of consent establishing clear boundaries before they got down to it.
There’s a lot of reactionary nonsense talked about sex in YA novels, but I’m far more worried about the teenagers who don’t read books and what they’re getting up to than the ones who are.
So, what I wish teenage girls knew is that their value and worth isn’t intrinsically tied in to how they look, That’s it’s all right to want to have sex. It’s all right if they don’t want to. But both camps should know how to put on a condom and why getting vaccinated against HPV is non-negotiable. Wider society should be there to provide advice and support and to give teenage girls the space and freedom to realise that their sexuality doesn’t belong to anyone else. It’s their own to do with what they will, at a time that’s right for them.