Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Prison service to investigate inmates painting ex Labour MP Jacqui Smith’s house as Prison Chiefs had no knowledge of incident, so wrong.

Dear All

People have a low opinion of politicians as they see them as getting special treatment that ordinary folk don’t.

So, to help that narrative along, former Home Secretary and ex Labour MP Jacqui Smith has defended her use of two day-release prisoners to paint her £450,000 home when they should have been doing community work.

Something stinks about this because Prison Chiefs at Hewell Prison reportedly knew nothing about the work until they were tipped off.

Prison bosses since launched an investigation into how the pair, who were meant to be improving parks and clearing up rubbish-strewn streams found themselves in her home decorating for two days.

They were supposed to be on a back-to-work scheme.

Speaking on an LBC radio programme, Smith said she wanted 'to set the record a little bit straight' and insisted the prisoners 'didn't have anything else on'.

Adding that she donated an unspecified amount to a local charity which organised the project, the Batchley Support Group!

And it gets better; Smith yesterday initially denied knowing about the incident but later admitted what happened.

Last year at the Westminster election, she faced a barrage of criticism and public backlash over a £116,000 expenses claim.

As I said something stinks to high heaven about this as a Prison Service spokeswoman confirmed they knew nothing at the time and the project has since been suspended.

In the past, Smith had to made a public apology in the House of Commons after a watchdog found that she had 'clearly' breached rules on second home expenses.

She said:

‘The decision to provide prisoners for this work was taken without consultation with HMP Hewell or the Ministry of Justice and was a mistake. Offenders should work on projects which help the whole community. The scheme has been suspended while a full internal investigation is undertaken.’

Smith said today:

“You may or may not have seen the front of The Sun but they are having a bit a go at me today because two prisoners who were coming towards the end of their sentence and doing work experience carried out about three hours' work at my house doing a bit of decorating. It hadn't been cleared with the prison authorities in advance and they've now launched an inquiry and The Sun is having a go at me. Well, just to set, I hope, the record a little bit straight, these are guys that were working with a local community organisation in Redditch, a community organisation that actually gives work experience opportunities to prisoners as they come towards the end of their sentence. They do a whole range of odd jobs and working in the local community - I think a really good scheme and really well done by this community group. On one day, when actually they didn't have anything else on, they did come to my house and do three hours-worth of painting, for which me and my husband made a donation to the community group.'

The Prison Service often works with charities and councils to do community-based unpaid work projects carried out by convicts.

But this is so wrong and typical of what many will see as double standards.

In the past, Smith had to made a public apology in the House of Commons after a watchdog found that she had 'clearly' breached rules on second home expenses.

During that episode, she designated a room in her sister's three-bedroom terrace house in South London as her main home, and pays a 'market rate' for her lodgings.

Luckily for us, the public kicked her out but clearly she still benefits from her connections.

Yours sincerely

George Laird
The Campaign for Human Rights at Glasgow University

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