NEIL Mackay ("The prisons system is falling apart – here is how to fix it", The Herald, May 18, states: “A courageous politician would take money from the prison budget…and invest in long-term support for children in poverty…”/ Courageous is not the adjective I would use.

It is a false dichotomy that we spend on prisons or children in poverty. If we imprison people we must fully fund the prison system. The biggest part of the prisons’ budget is staff. It would be a huge failing if prison-related staff expenditure was reduced. We need to spend more on staff. For instance, here new prison officers are given 12 weeks' training, whereas in Norway it is two years' training on full pay. Prison staff turnover here is higher than in Norway, leading to additional costs to recruit and train new staff. Current pay rates may not properly reflect staff responsibilities, again leading to staff turnover. We need to spend more simply to train, retain and pay staff.

In terms of the aims of the prison system the re-offending rates show that the current system does not work. We could investigate why the current system fails, but that would involve spending more money. For instance, those who are sentenced to life imprisonment currently have only a one in five chance of successfully gaining parole on their first appearance before the Parole Board, according to the board’s own figures. No administration of the Scottish Government has researched the parole decisions to ascertain if the current system can be changed to improve the likelihood of a prisoner gaining parole.

If we consider only prisoners’ physical and mental health there is a question as to whether we are spending enough on prisoners. We spend less than £3 a day on all meals for each prisoner. There has been no study done by any administration into the adequacy of food given to prisoners. Unlike the food given to school pupils there is no statutory underpinning of food served to prisoners. Again, no administration has conducted any research into the long-term effects of imprisonment on prisoners. This may be a wild guess on my part admittedly, but somehow spending less than £3 a day on meals; giving prisoners only flimsy, thin mattresses for sleeping; restricting what they can do and when they can do it, such as restricting how long they can get outside and restricting the amount and types of contact prisoners can have with their families may well lead to physical and mental health issues.

Spending on prisons should never be an either/or situation, where we spend on prisons or on young children in poverty. We should spend on both and to the full extent required. If we do not spend properly on prisons we are simply storing up problems for all of us. Prisons will be more difficult to manage, staff turnover will be higher, the current recidivism rates will increase and prisoners will experience long-term physical and mental health problems. It is in no one's interest to reduce the prisons’ budget.

David Logan, Milngavie.

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Police job is too big

I NOTE an interesting article on the performance of Jo Farrell, Police Scotland’s Chief Constable ("Chief inherited issues which she has only made worse...", The Herald, May 17).

Her taxi trip home to Durham was indeed misjudged, an inappropriate use of public funds and she was rightly strongly criticised for it. But a more important question is the job too big for her, or indeed for anyone?

Scotland has one police force, Wales, about a quarter the size of Scotland and a much smaller population has four. England, less than twice the land area of Scotland has 39, albeit with a much larger population. I have no knowledge of how the responsibilities of the forces in different parts of the country compare but there appears to be considerable divergence between their numbers at least. Wales and England are also more uniform in population distribution than Scotland and more "compact" geographically.

This feels like another example of the centralising tendency of the SNP Government and that it is not the solution in this instance.

Willie Towers, Alford.

The Herald: The performance of Chief Constable Jo Farrell has come in for criticismThe performance of Chief Constable Jo Farrell has come in for criticism (Image: PA)

Context is everything

I MUST respond to Doug Clark's letter (May 17) where he refers to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland and ponders over the direction of its deliberations, strongly suggesting that in having Christ as its Head, the Church's values are out of step with family values acceptable today. 

Mr Clark obviously has extensive Bible knowledge but he is being more than a little disingenuous as he has plucked a series of verses of scripture which if taken in isolation, I would have to agree, would cause concern to anyone who was seeking guidance in how they should live in the 21st century. They seem to portray a man intent only on power, speaking divisively on family values and cruelly condemning those who won't comply with His teaching.  

Context is everything and I have looked at each of his quoted examples and have found that Christ, in each, was dealing with situations where He was communicating a particular message to help an individual or individuals to come to terms with their faith, or lack of it. A read of these scriptures reveals that Jesus often spoke metaphorically and in parables to make understanding clearer for His listeners. He was often faced with the established church of the time who despised His teaching which pointed often to the hypocrisy of their religion and His words were often sharp to reveal and expose the sin within their own hearts.

On the contrary, Christ's teachings upheld the family unit, talked of loving one another, showed no partiality toward the rich and powerful, embraced the poor and needy and the ordinary man in the street. He demonstrated respect for women and encouraged the children to be brought to Him.

Consider the Gospel message of a God sending His own Son for the benefit of all, even those who are morally bankrupt and those we would perhaps describe as reprehensible. Yes, some things are beyond our ken.

Willie Ferguson, Irvine.

• TO do something useful, could God’s representatives in attendance at the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland please use their collective power to ask their ultimate boss to stop the world's ghastly wars, where His innocent people are being killed.

If no reply, them we must agree with American comedian Woody Allen, who once described God as an underachiever.

Malcolm Parkin, Kinross.