OTLEY AND DISTRICT MENíS FORUM
Our speaker on the 19th January was Veronica Bird OBE. Veronica grew up in Barnsley in a poor household, daughter of a miner with nine siblings. She won a scholarship to Ackworth School. She joined the prison service in a minor role and through many years rose to become deputy and acting governor of Armley Prison.
Veronica , now retired had lived a colourful life in the prison service .In 2003 she was part of a delegation to Moscow and its prison hoping to influence some improvements. She was appalled at the conditions and overcrowding where up to 28 men could be placed in a single cell. This compared to our standards where 2 men to a single cell is overcrowding! Conditions in Russia did improve after 2003 but she believed that conditions have now regressed again. Apparently there are no bails prior to trial in Russia as there are in this country. Once arrested, you stay in prison until trial!
Veronica told us of the great difficulties facing the prison service and quoted some statistics - There are about 86000 inmates in our prisons of which 36000 are unable to read or write, Many are unable to speak English.
We spend about 35 million a year keeping Polish prisoners in our establishments
Finally Veronica told us that Princess Anne is a great supporter of the prison service but cited a amusing incident which occurred in a Lancashire prison when a royal visit was expected with all the attendant publicity. Apparently workmen raised a ladder from the inside against the outer wall and then went to fetch their tools. In the intervening moments some inmates hopped up the ladder and over the wall only to be met by the television cameras!
A vote of thanks was proposed by Tony Beck for the wonderful talk.
At our next meeting at the Methodist Church at 10 am on February 2nd our chairman, John Morgan, will guide us around Yellowstone Park.