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Murder, Rape, Theft
and Abuse. Kids all around the world need our help.
Does Rehab work? That’s the question we’ll be asking on these pages. But we also want to know your views. Take part in our online poll.
Felon. A 24 year old black diva from Walthamstow. She has it all. As a
prolific singer and songwriter she’s worked with the best, had chart
success and is about to hit the big time.
Battling comes naturally to this feisty 23 year old singer and lyricist. Taking her name from her incarceration in Prison following an attempted armed robbery, the Felon story is a modern day rags to riches tale with an urban twist. In 2002, she burst onto the UK dance scene with her anthemic debut single ‘Get Out’. Hailed as ‘a landmark release for the new generation of urban music’ by Voice magazine, this seminal track hit the top five of three charts simultaneously and earned the plaudits of music critics up and down the UK.
For Simone, this marked the end of an era. One that most people would be only to glad to forget. But what doesn’t break you makes you stronger, and the lessons that this girl took from her past has created the urban legend that is now FELON. To understand her future, you have to understand her past.
Born and raised in London’s infamous E17, her single parent mum immersed Simone in old skool R’n’B music. With school studies increasingly taking a back seat to her self styled music education, Simone knew that she could really sing. But the harsh realities of urban living took their toll. Dangerous company and a dead end job took Simone down a very different road.
In May 1999, armed police interrupted a robbery in the supermarket where she worked. As an acquaintance of the perpetrators, Simone was arrested and charged with complicity. ‘The truth is, I knew they were going to rob the store’ she candidly admits. She was offered a cut for information. “It was a stupid idea, but all I thought about was the money……how stupid could I have been?” Conviction led to a two and a half year sentence including a stint in the notorious Holloway Prison.
What happened next changed Simone's life in a way that not even the best Hollywood screenwriter could have predicted. Determined to remain strong in the face of adversity “prisons make the strong stronger and the weak weaker, I wasn’t going to become a victim, so I had to become stronger”, she started to sing again. Locked in her cell with Missy Elliot, Mary J Blige and Destiny’s child sounding out of her beat box, she gained a reputation. But this time her voice led the way. A move to an open prison and a penchant for karaoke sessions perfected her diva with attitude performance. Incredibly, she was taken seriously by the powers that be and introduced to an artist management company with a history of working with young offenders. Recognising her talent and determination they offered her a contract, she didn’t need to think twice about accepting.
Simone started to pen her own lyrics, drawing from her own life experience. This culminated in a day release licence to record her first track ‘Get Out’ – under the alias Felon. Prison was hard, but Simone didn’t see it as a negative thing, just something that she had survived. She had learned to be responsible for her own actions and this came across in her music. Parole followed, along with a 2 single deal with Serious records, an imprint of the Universal label. Felon put her name to the deal whilst electronically ankle tagged and under curfew. Inevitable media interest followed with accusations of both her and her management team exploiting her criminal image, but Felon remained unrepentant. “Some people just associate me with crime…….MPs have said that my record should be banned because I’m glorifying prison! I don’t deal with peoples perceptions.”
With remixes by Phats and Small and Luck’n’Neat, ‘Get Out’ hit number 31 in the mainstream charts whilst NME declared it was ‘the finest R’n’B record of the noughties’. But behind the scenes, Felon had reason to believe that her intellectual property was being compromised by individuals attached to the record label. She is one tough cookie that is prepared to defend her individual creativity. Although Universal tried to help, the working relationship with Serious became untenable. With her promotion budget slashed, TV appearances shelved and no second single forthcoming, the future for Simone Locker AKA Felon once again seemed bleak.
But what the industry hadn’t bargained for was Felon herself. Forever the fighter, the girl knew that what she had was unique. And so did others. Free from the constraints of the record company, Felons talent soared. Mark Hill, Blue Harvest, Maximum Risk and the Wide Boyz have all collaborated with her. A meeting with MJ Cole resulted in the track ‘Ghetto Queen’ which was released as part of his CD ‘Cut to the Chase’, generally recognised as the best dance album of the decade. Her follow up track, ‘Flash’ is featured on the brand new DVD of Aaliyah’s life ‘More than a woman’.
Integral to all of this is her dedication to the things she feels passionately about. Felon is well aware that she has been given a second shot and that in her case, rehabilitation worked. Others are not so lucky. The booty shakin diva has been only too happy to work with charities such as ‘Unlock’, working to promote rehabilitation of young offenders, because as she herself puts it “Even though I’m doing what I want to do, I’ll never forget where I came from”.
See Felon's 'Jailor Trailer' short film made about her time inside and work done to rehabilitate other young offenders.
Visit Felon's website at www.felon.uk.com
TO THOSE OF YOU NOT FAMILIAR WITH JOE ARPAIO, HE IS THE MARICOPA ARIZONA COUNTY SHERIFF AND HE KEEPS GETTING ELECTED OVER AND OVER
THIS IS WHY:
Sheriff Joe Arpaio (in Arizona) created the "tent city jail":
He has jail meals down to 40 cents a serving and charges the inmates for them.
He stopped smoking and porn magazines in the jails. Took away their weights Cut off all but "G" rated movies.
He started chain gangs so the inmates could do free work on county and city projects.
Then he started chain gangs for women so he wouldn't get sued for discrimination.
He took away cable TV until he found out there was a federal court order that required cable TV for jails. So he hooked up the cable TV again only let in the Disney channel and the weather channel.
When asked why the weather channel he replied, so they will know how hot it's gonna be while they are working on my chain gangs.
He cut off coffee since it has zero nutritional value.
When the inmates complained, he told them, "This isn't the Ritz/Carlton. If you don't like it, don't come back."
He bought Newt Gingrich' lecture series on videotape that he pipes into the jails.
When asked by a reporter if he had any lecture series by a Democrat, he replied that a democratic lecture series might explain why a lot of the inmates were in his jails in the first place.
More on the Arizona Sheriff:
With temperatures being even hotter than usual in Phoenix (116 degrees just set a new record), the Associated Press reports: About 2,000 inmates living in a barbed-wire-surrounded tent encampment at the Maricopa County Jail have been given permission to strip down to their government-issued pink boxer shorts.
On Wednesday, hundreds of men wearing boxers were either curled up on their bunk beds or chatted in the tents, which reached 138 degrees inside the week before.
Many were also swathed in wet, pink towels as sweat collected on their chests and dripped down to their pink socks.
"It feels like we are in a furnace," said James Zanzot, an inmate who has lived in the tents for 1 year. "It's inhumane."
Joe Arpaio, the tough-guy sheriff who created the tent city and long ago started making his prisoners wear pink, and eat bologna sandwiches, is not one bit sympathetic He said Wednesday that he told all of the inmates: "It's 120 degrees in Iraq and our soldiers are living in tents too, and they have to wear full battle gear, but they didn't commit any crimes, so shut your damned mouths!"
Way to go, Sheriff! Maybe if all prisons were like this one there would be a lot less crime and/or repeat offenders. Criminals should be punished for their crimes - not live in luxury until it's time for their parole, only to go out and commit another crime so they can get back in to live on taxpayers money and enjoy things taxpayers can't afford to have for themselves.
Sheriff Joe was just reelected Sheriff in Maricopa County, Arizona.
Judges in England and Wales could be given greater discretion to decide the sentence tariffs for potentially dangerous criminals.
The Home Office has also suggested ways to make sentencing guidelines easier for the public to understand.
It follows anger over the case of Craig Sweeney, who was told he could be released after five years of a life sentence for kidnap and sexual assault.
MORE criminals are returning to a life of crime within months of serving jail or community sentences than at any time since Labour came to power, figures released quietly show.
More than 60 per cent of young male thugs and muggers are convicted of another offence within two years of ending their sentence. Three quarters of young male burglars and thieves also reoffend, according to the Home Office figures placed unannounced on its departmental website.
A massive 90 per cent of offenders on the drug treatment and testing order, designed to tackle the link between drug use and prolific offending, go on to commit more crimes. The programme costs the Government £53 million annually. There is also a high dropout rate by offenders given the orders, which were introduced across England and Wales five years ago.
The figures are a severe blow to the Government, which is attempting to end the “revolving-door” syndrome, in which offenders are constantly in and out of jail. The data were released less than a week after Damien Hanson was convicted of the murder of the City financier John Monckton only three months after being released early from a twelve-year prison term. Elliot White, the second killer of Mr Monckton, was on a drug treatment and testing order at the time of the offence.
The figures show that 58.5 per cent of adult offenders released from jail in the first quarter of 2002 or starting a community sentence at the same time were convicted of a further crime within two years. When Labour came to power the figure was 53.1 per cent and in 2000 it was 57.6 per cent.
The number of criminals who committed further offences within two years of leaving jail was even higher. It rose three percentage points to 67 per cent last year and reoffending by those on community sentences increased fractionally to 53 per cent.
When Labour came to power the reoffending rate for prisoners within two years of being released was 58 per cent. More than a third of criminals reoffended within six months of ending their sentence and almost 50 per cent within a year.
Statisticians in the Home Office insisted that the figures meant that there had been an improvement because the actual number of new crimes was 0.2 per cent below their predictions. The explanation is scant comfort for the Home Office, which is already facing a semi-independent inquiry into reoffending by the two men convicted of killing Mr Monckton.
A Home Office spokesman admitted last night that performance had slipped and that the figures were disappointing. Baroness Scotland of Asthal, QC, a Home Office minister of state, said: “We accept that these statistics are less positive than we had hoped. However, they still show that the reconviction rate for adults is less than had originally been predicted.” She added: “Reducing reoffending is one of the core priorities of this Government and is at the heart of the reforms that led to the creation of the National Offender Management Service. Since 2001, we have made significant investments in the correctional services and have done more than ever before to address the underlying factors that lie at the root of reoffending.”
The Government is to publish a five-year strategy aimed at reducing reoffending early next year. It is to be published after the Prison and Probation Service has spent millions of pounds on psychology-based courses aimed at turning prisoners away from a life of crime.
Mark Oaten, the Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman, said: “Every case of re- offending creates a new victim of crime, more cost to the taxpayer and a wasted opportunity for the individual who committed the offence. The Labour Government should be ashamed that after eight years it is still failing to get a grip on the revolving door of reoffending.”
The increase in reoffending rates, particularly among ex-prisoners, could be linked to the characteristics of offenders now being sent to jail. Judges and magistrates have said that criminals have been becoming nastier, more prolific and more dependent on drugs in the past decade. Another reason may be that jails are overcrowded, meaning that staff have less time to work with offenders.
Juliet Lyon, the director of the Prison Reform Trust, said: “Buried in this statistical bulletin is the shocking fact that 67 per cent of adults released from prison in the first quarter of 2002 had been reconvicted within two years. This is a marked step in the wrong direction and shows the wasteful, counter-productive effect of tougher sentencing and overcrowded prisons.”
Enver Solomon, the deputy director of the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies, said that the Government was misguided in believing that huge investment in the criminal justice system was a key driver in reducing crime and promoting public safety. “The figures show that the solution to reducing reoffending lies outside the criminal justice system,” he said.
READ MORE at Timesonline
Depends on the culture of the country and if punishment is used as a deterrent, a means to rehabilitate or simply to reprimand the offender.
Around the world, the extreme attitudes towards offenders adopted in, for example, the middle east are often seen as offensive and barbaric to us in the west. But then division of opinion regarding the death penalty is evident between Europe and America.
What's your take on dealing with criminals in relation to the gravity of the crime?
Check out these items and links for more on the subject:
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The cartoon images used were obtained from IMSI's MasterClips Collection.