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Life in La la land

Published:Monday | February 22, 2010 | 12:00 AM

La la land is defined as "a state of mind characterised by unrealistic expectations or a lack of seriousness". Incredibly, there's a country that has been existing in such a state for many years and no one in charge has the administrative will to effect change. Things are so ridiculous in that country that I had to dub it La la land.

La la land is plagued by pernicious corruption, an extremely high crime rate, and several murders every day. Their criminals have become so heinous that they murder anyone, including innocent women and children (born and unborn) without hesitation. Its citizens live in constant fear and, at nights, they sleep fitfully, fretting that lurking, blood-thirsty gunmen will target them at any time.

In spite of the grave circumstances under which people within La la land must live, their politicians and top civil servants talk grandiosely about what needs to be done, but serious efforts to squelch criminal activities lack the urgency and consistent attention to detail required to outmanoeuvre criminal minds and outpace the growth and continuance of the societal factors that produce and sustain crime. The gap between what their officials espouse and what happens in real life is nothing short of astounding.

No rehabilitation

One of the most glaring deficiencies in La la land's quest to reduce crime is their prisons (so-called correctional or rehabilitation facilities). Incarceration there is mostly punitive; rehabilitation is more of a theoretical and neonatal entity and less of a functional and well-established practice. Consequently, their prisons are often the breeding ground for criminality and a badge of honour to many up-and-coming gangsters.

If La la land were serious about reducing crime, it would instigate real rehabilitation and ensure prison security. It would spend the money to make certain that prison inmates were adequately supplied with a proper diet, clothes and bathroom necessities. It would have all inmates outfitted only with easily recognisable clothes so that they could not blend in with the general population if they escaped. These simple measures would stop the practice of visitors bringing care packages into prisons.

That would make the smuggling of contraband and bribing of prison guards very difficult. High-security prisons would have barriers between visitors and inmates and the only outsiders allowed direct contact and privacy would be lawyers, the clergy, health workers and human rights personnel.

Although prisons are supposed to be extremely secure, banned items, such as cellular telephones, are commonly used by inmates in La la land. Some felons communicate freely with friends and family, conduct business and even orchestrate criminal activities (including the ordering of 'hits') from their prison cells. These cellular telephones are charged by available electricity.

Telephone installation

In La la land, the systemic deficiencies and short-sightedness that denied inmates any telephone access inevitably led to complaints that fell on deaf ears and culminated in prisoners resorting to smuggling and bribery to acquire cellular telephones. The simple solution is for La la land prisons to install banks of telephones, make them available to inmates on a scheduled basis, while monitoring and recording them electronically for security purposes.

La la land officials are making some sort of effort to reform their prison system, but progress is painfully slow and fraught with stumbling blocks. That country cannot expect to win the war on crime with half-hearted, myopic and deficient measures that sustain corruption, propagate criminality and subvert their anticrime measures. Why bother locking up criminals if several can conduct "business as usual" from behind bars?

Garth A. Rattray is a medical doctor with a family practice. Feedback may be sent to or