From the head-line "Amnesty plea for political prisoners", I turned to read Lord Longford's fine article, "Is custody on the way out?" (May 31). Any relationship between the two contributions'?
Of the many charitable actions of Pope John, from the magnanimous donation of his cardinal's "suchetto" to the head of Mgr de Jorio at the end of his own election Conclave, to.. the affable welcome of observer delegates to Vatican II, nothing endeared him more in the world's eye than his memorable Christmas visit to the inmates of the Regina Caeli prison in Rome.
Evidently Pope John, Pope Paul, and Lord Longford have deeply studied the implication of Question 321 in the Penny Catechism in thinking of the welfare of prisoners as a corporal work of mercy, an omission for which I and probably countless others might administer a thumping "mea maxima culpa!" But if not to visit, one can, at least, speak for them.
What must it feel like to he a long-term prisoner? Perhaps only a Dumas in "The Count of Monte Christo" can adequately convey the utter hopelessness of the deprivation of liberty with the austerities and frustrations in an age more rigorous than our own.
Lord Longford's article explains itself, but our country seems to glory in building more and more custodial establishments, whereas the ideal should he progressively to get rid of them. I understand the cost of keeping a single prisoner is equivalent to the fees of sending a boy to Eton.
To empty our prisons of certain categories, periodic amnesties appear to he the only answer. Even the most "backward" Continental nations avail themselves of this measure on the occasion of notable national celebrations and events. But in England, "amnesty in its penal context seems to be hardly known.
A country which prides itself as being in the forefront when liberty and tolerance are concerned, appears like Shylock in demanding the last scruple in retribution from its offenders.
On the occasion of the Royal Silver wedding celebrations I looked, and hoped for some kind of selective anmesty for our prisoners. but nothing apparently happened.
One trusts that the Papal plea for an amnesty during Jubilee Year will catch the eye of an understanding and beneficent Home Secretary who will do his best to implement so merciful a gesture.
James Goldsbury 75 Bingham Road, Radcliffe-on-Trent, Nottingham