Page last updated at 13:27 GMT, Friday, 21 November 2008

Prison laughs no joke for inmates

Whitemoor prison
The comedy classes were said to boost team work

The Justice Minister has ordered the cancellation of a comedy workshop for prisoners at a top security jail.

The course, which started on Monday at Whitemoor Prison in Cambridgeshire, was supposed to run for eight days.

Jack Straw, Secretary of State for Justice, described the course as "totally unacceptable".

"Senior managers in the prison service, who were also unaware of the course, take the same view as me," Mr Straw added in a statement.

'Ramifications outside'

Comedy classes, which organisers say boost team work and communication skills, have been available at the prison since 1998.

Mr Straw said: "Prisons should be places of punishment and reform, and providing educational, training and constructive pursuits is an essential part of this.

"But the types of courses available, and the manner in which they are delivered must be appropriate in every prison.

"What happens inside the prison gates has ramifications outside, on victims and their families, and on taxpayers.

"There is a crucial test: can the recreational, social and educational classes paid for out of taxpayers' money (or otherwise) be justified to the community?"

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