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Learning lessons.

We can only hope that we Britons are not so insular these days that we cannot learn from the refreshingly different way of thinking that is being propounded by our near-neighbours in Belgium.

That country has been suffering a spate of breakouts from its jails and here the knee-jerk reaction would be to tighten security.

Not so, says the union for the Belgian prison guards. Think about it.

At the moment prisoners are escaping by building rope ladders, being helped over the wall from outside or by walking out wearing visitors' clothes.

Union leader Filip Dudal makes the point that prisoners are still going to try to escape "even if we build underground bunkers".

So, the argument goes, do we really want to stop prisoners using non-violent methods of getting away when the consequence might well be that they would turn to violent methods instead?

Do we want to egg prisoners on to using knives, firearms, bombs and the kidnap of warders to escape?

"We could build prisons that nobody could get out of, but they would be unbearable," says the union.

Now you might wonder about the consequences if this somewhat fatalistic approach was extended to other areas.

You might, fairly pointedly, contrast this with the much more determinist frame of mind next door in the Netherlands, where for many years they have fought with no little skill and ingenuity to build their polders and win back huge areas of land from the North Sea.

Well, we said this was a pointed contrast.

And you might care to consider that just now in this country experts are considering how we might stop the sea nibbling away at our coastline - in Yorkshire as much as anywhere else.

The latest thinking is that one way to cut the huge cost of building defences and coping with possible rises in sea levels as a result of global warming is to let the coastal areas revert to being what they once were - marshy, swampy regions, well able to absorb the sea's restless energy, and (as a bonus) suitable land for many kinds of aquatic birds.

Perhaps the idea of the Belgian prison guards is not so stir-crazy after all.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Huddersfield Daily Examiner (Huddersfield, England)
Date:Sep 4, 2004
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