In prisons up and down the country there are prisoners who have deliberately committed relatively minor offences in order to get them locked up. Many of these people are those who would be homeless outside and who have done just this every year in order to spend Christmas in jail, with hot food and a warm bed.
The media will often report on this from the perspective of claiming that prison is a cushy place which should be toughened up to make life harder for prisoners. What they often miss is that prison is not cushy, it is just preferable to freezing to death on the streets, as so many do each year.
Toughening prison up is unnecessary but, even if we were to successfully make prison worse than sleeping in subzero conditions without any food to fill your belly it would not make our society any better. Yes, maybe the prisoners would suffer more (which some might think is a good thing), and it could deter some of these homeless people from getting themselves locked up on purpose every winter too. But those people would suffer more too as they rest their heads on the icy doorsteps of your local shops with nothing to eat and keep them warm and nourished.
Isn’t it time we showed a bit of that Christmas spirit I hear so much about and extended a hand to those who need it? Instead of focusing on how to make prison harder, why not think of ways that we can make the world outside slightly better?
To all of you who are volunteering in soup kitchens and hostels this year, thank you. Please have a very merry Christmas.