G4S, the private security firm that sounds like a carving in a wood tree, has refused to class a riot in its Oakwood Prison as a 'riot', despite the fact that scenes one would normally associate with rioting were witnessed by prison officers such as upturned pool tables, random things being on fire and prisoners shouting 'This is a successful riot we're currently engaged in.'
It's all too easy to assume that just because this incident occurred in a private prison, people are working behind the scenes to play it down, taking their cue from the government who have become world leaders in playing things down. If playing things down was an Olympic sport, the government would fail to win a medal and then spend the rest of the summer playing it down.
After all, what is a 'riot'? If I smacked a bunch of roses against a bus shelter for fifteen minutes because I'd been stood up by Gina again what do I have to do to make her love me, would that be classed as a 'riot'? I'm creating a disturbance, yes, but the only requirement to defuse the situation would be a reassuring shoulder-grip from a constable, not a rubber bullet to the balls.
It is impossible to know what really happened at Oakwood, discounting the fact that a prison officer who was directly involved gave an in-depth interview with the BBC, because he was undoubtedly lying. He probably just wanted to be on the BBC. We all want to be on the BBC. I've been trying for 20 years. Even Newsjack asked me to stop writing to them. I've gone off the point. Sorry. I'll start a new paragraph.
There, that's better. If anyone could be accused of creating a genuine riot at Oakwood Prison, albeit a figurative one, it's the news media who once again have overblown the incident by uncovering clear discrepancies in the official account of events, thereby turning it into a 'news story'. Private companies like G4S haven't got time for this kind of scrutiny. How can you be expected to run facilities like supersized prisons and hospitals and care homes if occasional catastrophes and tragedies can't slip by unchecked?
If we are to allow the prison system to flourish under the supervision of private companies, we must accept the odd upturned pool table and ignore liberal media embellishment which turns upside-down sports furniture into burning wings of damned souls.
If I were to end this post with a heavy-handed prison-based metaphor, I'd say let's permit the contraband to slip under the table this time. Hopefully the editor will think of something better.
A sketch by Michael Spicer.