I've been building up a fascinating picture of the penal system across Europe this week, thanks to a couple of stories reported in the press.
In the Netherlands, prisoners are being offered support from psychics who are able to put them in touch with dead relatives. One such practitioner, clairvoyant Paul van Bree, not only reassures the lags with confirmation of the afterlife, but also helps the authorities to gain an insight into the criminal mind and determine the nature of the rehabilitation programme. It's not made clear whether van Bree is capable of seeing - Minority Report style - future offences that might be committed by the inmates. He describes himself as a 'paragnost' rather than a precog.
If this scheme were introduced in British prisons, the psychics could do all kinds of helpful stuff. Like help the inmates predict the schedule for Sky One or anticipate the next PS3 games to arrive at the jail.
In reality, the soothsayers are more likely to be in demand in Sweden. At Malmo's Kirsebirg Prison, warders are under attack from a jailbird who uses his flatulence as a weapon against them. Rather than confront the Scandinavian screws with some homemade knife fashioned out of a sharpened water bottle, the dangerous convict breaks wind instead. My thinking is that the jailers need some kind of advance warning of these attacks.
'I've got this picture of a menu. It's next Wednesday's dinner. It's hazy, but I can see the words lentils and beans.'
'Thank you. That's all I need to know. Anders, get me the cook on the line now...'