15 APRIL 1995, Page 30

My fellow crooks

Sir: Swift retribution can be expected when professional conmen believe they have been conned (`Getting away with it', 1 April). My fellow crooks and fraudsters at Ford Open Prison are still smarting at being turned over by the dear old BBC.

The men from the Beeb came promising to bury the tabloid myths about the place, but instead produced a programme that probably would have given the Governor a nervous breakdown if he'd" seen it in the Sun.

Anyway, the cons here have passed sen- tence on the two producers of last week's Modern Times documentary. Draconian stuff, too. In the film, much was made of the prison's debating forum, the Gavel Club. An august institution, it offers mem- bership and fellowship to the library-book- reading class in the nick. — as opposed to the book-stealing class. In the entire history of the club, no one has ever been expelled by the fallen fraudsters. Until now. Howev- er, for deliberately pulling the wool over our eyes, the two producers, Steve and Nick (or Nicholas when he writes for The Specta- tor), have had their honorary memberships cancelled. They have been Blackballed for ungentlemanly conduct.

The programme did little to dispel the lurid (and only occasionally accurate) sto- ries of a Butlintz by the sea. But then it wouldn't if it only featured four or five prison luvvies who couldn't resist the cam- eras. And it did substantially less to expose the nonsense of the present penal system which locks up thousands of fine defaulters and unconvicted men and women. Even the Archbishop of Canterbury has recognised that there might be a touch too many peo- ple doing bird at the moment.

Leaving aside the fact that the film looked as though it had been shot by an army of Jeremy Beadle camcorder freaks, it actually failed to portray the reality and the futility of the prison. The regime was portrayed as a class struggle between the prison's two wings: penniless young revo- lutionaries locked in an ideological debate with the rich, old guard. It is nothing of the sort. Gentleman crooks talking noughts and Mercedes are few and far between. And there's a healthy scepticism among us all for any member of the bull- shit brigade.

In trying to tell the story of the prison through the eyes of so few, the BBC were guilty of deception.

Roger Collier ,

Prisoner No FJ2051, HMP Ford, West Sussex