26 APRIL 1968, Page 28

Parole : Safety first

Sir: I did not 'claim' in my article (5 April) that Lord Hunt's Prison Licensing Board was in itself 'cumbersome.' I suggested that it was part of a ridiculously cumbersome system.

Lord Hunt (Letters, 19 April) says, with re- ference to his colleagues and himself : 'We in- tend to establish close links with local review committees and meet prisoners and in these and other ways . . . to demonstrate our independent status.' Good "luck. It's certainly a sensible idea for this 'highly expert body of men and women' to meet the people they're talking about, how- ever 'expert' their advice might be without doing so. But isn't it still going to be a bit dif- ficult to demonstrate what is demonstrably un- true? -

Lord Hunt says his board thinks a slow and cautious beginning necessary. All right. But suppose, just suppose, it didn't think so, and the Home Secretary still did. What would happen then? The answer is—and I challenge Lord Hunt to deny it—that the board would have to toe the line. It hasn't the power to re- lease—or even consider releasing anyprisoners at all without the Home Secretary's agreement. If this is Lord Hunt's idea of independent status, it isn't mine.

In these circumstances, I don't see much point in prolonging the argument with Lord Hunt, though I should be delighted to do so with any responsible Home Office official who might if last be dared out of his hiding. But I can't resist a final comment. It is true I haven't access to the details of crimes committed by the first batch of parolees, but as a `student of' peno- logy,' I am certainly not aware ,that 'changes in" circumstances and attitude commonly [italks mine] occur during the Course of prison treat- nientasStiming Lord Htint means for the better: If he would quit drawing inferences about-My qualifications for expressing views dri this subject, and would instead read some Of the stuff I've Written as a result of observa- tions and researcheS in many parts of the world Over the pait twenty years or more, including `meetings with prisoners,' .he would honour me and. would also, I frankly' feel, profit himself more than he is likely to do through a study of Home Office and government handouts.