A good friend sent me a remarkable email recently. And in the light of a damning Care Commission report about a specific West Lothian nursing home, it seemed all the more relevant.
The email suggested that it would be a good plan to put all the pensioners in jail, and all the criminals in a nursing home.
Crazy? No, consider this: such a move would mean the pensioners would have access to showers, hobbies, daily exercise and walks. What’s more, they would be entitled to unlimited free prescriptions, optical, dental and medical treatment. Oh, and they would receive money instead of paying it out.
Even better, they would have constant video monitoring, so they could be helped instantly if they needed assistance. Their bedding would be washed and changed regularly. Their clothing would be ironed and returned to them daily.
They would have access to a library and a gym. They could attend free educational classes. Each of the old folks would have a free PC, video game consol and flat screen colour TV. There would be a board of governors to hear their complaints, and the guards would have a code of conduct that would be strictly adhered to.
On the other hand, the criminals – who would be in the nursing home – would be served cold food, be left unsupervised, woken at 6 am, lights off at 8 pm and given access to showers once a week.
They would live in a tiny room, have to pay a fortune for the privilege, and be abused or ignored by staff. They would share a single TV in a communal lounge and watch whatever channel everyone else was watching.
They would rarely receive visitors, and would serve each day in the knowledge they had little hope of ever getting out.
It’s crazy, but it might just work.
What makes this suggestion all the more remarkable, is that the original idea was sent to me by an ex-Governor of a major Scottish jail. Me? I’m on his side!