Evelyn Waugh - Decline and Fall
"I was on night duty last night between the hours of 8pm and 4am" testified the warder in a sing-song voice, "when my attention was attracted by sounds of agitation coming from the prisoner's cell. Upon going to the observation hole I observed the prisoner pacing up and down his cell in a state of high excitement In one hand he held his Bible, and in the other a piece of wood which he had broken from his stool His eyes were staring; he was breathing heavily, and at times muttering verses of the Bible. I remonstrated with the prisoner when he addressed me in terms prejudicial to good discipline"
"What are the words complained of?" asked the Chief Warder
"He called me a Moabite, an abomination of Moab, a wash-pot, an unclean thing, an uncircumcised Moabite, an idolater, and a whore of Babylon, sir "
"I see What do you advise, officer ?"
"A clear case of insubordination, sir," said the Chief Warder "Try him on No 1 diet for a bit"
But when he asked the Chief Warder’s opinion, Sir Wilfred was not really seeking advice He liked to emphasise in his own mind, and perhaps that of the prisoners, the difference between the official view and his own.
"What would you say was the most significant part of the evidence ?" he asked
The Chief Warder considered. "I think whore of Babylon, on the whole, sir"
Sir Wilfred smiled as a conjurer may who has forced the right card.
"Now I," he said, "am of different opinion It may surprise you, but I should say that the significant thing about this case was the fact that the prisoner held a piece of the stool"
"Destruction of prison property," said the Chief Warder. "Yes, that’s pretty bad "
"Now what was your profession before conviction?" asked the Governor, turning to the prisoner
"I knew it ," said the Governor triumphantly "We have another case of the frustrated creative urge. Now listen, my man. It is very wrong of you to insult the officer, who is clearly none of the things you mentioned. He symbolizes the just disapproval of society and is, like
all the prison staff, a member of the Church of England . But I understand your difficulty You have been used to
creative craftsmanship, have you not, and you find prison
life deprives you of the means of self-expression, and
your energies find vent in these foolish outbursts. I will
see to it that a bench and a set of carpenter’s tools are
provided for you The first thing you shall do is to mend
the piece of furniture you so wantonly destroyed After
that we will find other work for you in your old trade
You may go".
"Get to the cause of the trouble," Sir
Wilfred added when the prisoner was led away, "your
Standing Orders may repress the symptoms, they do not
probe to the underlying cause ".
Of course the inevitable happened, and the prisoner used his carpenter's tools to saw-off the head of the prison chaplain, Mr Prendegast.
No doubt in the wake of yesterday's tragic events, someone will dare to question the wisdom of not only releasing early from prison an Islamist terrorist, but of inviting him to participate in a criminology conference organised by the University of Cambridge at the exact site of the start of London's previous Islamist terrorist atrocity.