Dec 13th, 2016
The Foozler Reports: Golf Therapy In Prison
Turning cons into better people
Words: Ben Marshall
The Foozler Reports: Golf Therapy For Convicts
‘Have you seen this fellas?’ chirped Foozler during our Friday wind-down pint. ‘Canadians are offering Golf Therapy to convicts, have you ever heard the like?’ ‘No,’ we said, ‘get your stripes on and go find out…’
We all know that golf can improve lives, but is anyone aware that golf can actually save lives.
Forget all that nonsense espoused by the deluded Luddites of Green Party and other similarly inclined weirdos. Golf - with its emphasis on honesty, good manners, and occasionally dull clothes – may just yet prove to be the very thing our Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, requires to lower the level of crime in Britain's sink estates. It may even contribute to the lowering of white collar, corporate crime.
Lets begin with the latter. Several years ago the one time media tycoon and former head of Hollinger International, Conrad Black finally got his long overdue comeuppance in a Canadian court room. Black was convicted of 11 counts of fraud and obstruction of justice. Sadly the jury failed to find him guilty of racketeering and tax evasion, but at least he went down.
For me the highlight of the trial (and this was a trial with so many glitzy, kitschy highlights) was the extraordinary exchange between Black’s butch and ballsy lawyer Edward Greenspan and David Radler.
Radler, Black’s former business partner turned treacherous chief prosecution witness, was, as Greenspan pointed out at the time, a proven and quite spectacular liar. However he was also the liar the prosecution desperately required to put Black in a place where he could no longer rob other people blind.
Edward Greenspan was telling David Radler something he clearly wished the jury to believe Radler already knew (Radler knew everything bad, that's what made him such a cool super-grass). Greenspan pointed out that in addition to being much more generous with parole, Canada has a policy of placing prisoners close to their homes.
“I take it you know that the most likely prisons you’ll be sentenced to in British Columbia are Ferndale or William Head. Have you heard of Ferndale?”
No, said Radler, he hadn’t.
“Have you heard there you can raise cattle? And there’s a golf therapy program.”
“As a non-golfer,” said Radler, “that’s not going to help me.”
Greenspan then asked, “Do you know William Head is called 'Club Fed' in Canada? Did you know it’s got 86 acres of maintained grounds and until recently had a miniature golf course?”
Radler insisted, somewhat unconvincingly, that he was not conversant with the prisons of British Columbia and their golfing programs.
“You’re a bottom-line kind of guy, right?” said Greenspan.
He then told Radler that the deal he’d secured for testifying against Black “is the best deal you’ve ever gotten in a lifetime of making deals”.
“Sir,” said Radler, “I do not believe that going to prison is a deal,”.
“And for this unbelievable sweetheart deal,” Greenspan howled, “you have to give the government what they wanted when no crime was committed by anyone but you.”
Radler once more repeated that he was not a golfer. In a trial that included staggering evidence of greed it was the Golf Therapy thing that really wound up the world’s press.
Well this in truth is a crying shame. Radler, like Black, is in desperate need of some Golf therapy. And all the world's prisons and lunatic asylums would be much improved with the addition of a nine hole golf course.
Now before you start getting all hot under the collar about the Yorkshire Ripper teeing off in Broadmoor, just consider what actually bothers you about crime. If you are anything like me it's not so much the criminals that worry you, it's more the fact that the feckless twerps seem unable to stop committing crime.
If we could find some way to cure them of their absurd and anti-social passions would not that be a good thing? Even remedial education tends to reduce the rate of re-offending. A university degree can turn 24 carat, copper-bottomed thugs into proper citizens.
But golf truly goes the extra mile. And the powers that be are slowly coming to recognise this. Admittedly at the moment Golf Therapy is pretty much a US idea, but already it is proving to be spectacularly effective.
The Islip Town Board , Suffolk CVounty, New York, have just sanctioned a program in which students will be taught golf by golf-pros to try and wean them away from gang culture and becoming embroiled in a life of thievery and general stupidity.
It's called – I love this – the Gangs to Golf program aimed at 11-14 yr olds.
"This program," said Islip Supervisor Phil Nolan, "will take kids off the streets and onto the green for a game that builds both confidence and character."
This makes perfect sense. Golf teaches the values of fair play. Cheating on the golf course is a sure fire way of cheating yourself. The Baltimore based Civil Rights lawyer put it to me this way:
“The criminal mind set largely looks for short cuts. You see something you want and you take it. To do that you have to lack empathy, you are completely unable to stand in the shoes of your victim.
"Golf teaches the reverse. On a golf course there are no short cuts, and there is always a deep and abiding respect for your opponent. You learn that life is about hard work, patience and an ability to read and respect others.
"Golf Therapy is highly contentious because it sounds like you are rewarding crooks. But in practice you are trying to show them that there is a different and infinitely more civilised way to behave. And if, at the end of the day, that helps to reduce crime then it has to be good thing.”
Now of course there will be those amongst you who will argue, not unreasonably, that some snotty-nosed tea-leaf should be punished for their crimes. Well I agree, but how much more punishing would his life be if he were forced to endure and finally enjoy the travails and etiquette of a decent game of golf?
There will also be those who might want to point out that golf is often the favourite game of the more well-heeled career criminal and homicidally inclined dictator. After all the Japanese Mafia, the Yakuza, are notorious aficionados of the game. But this apparently has to do with curbing their more revolting instincts rather than encouraging them.
So the question really is how much worse would these people have been without golf? And finally neither Hitler, Stalin, Mao or Saddam Hussein ever played golf.
Conrad Black was released from prison in 2012 after 37 months served of his six and a half year sentence. He lives in Canada and continues to protest his innocence. A bit like a golfer who knows no one saw him kick his ball out of the rough. But deep down he knows it. Everyone knows it.