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Up until quite late in the 19th century English prisons were places for punishment not rehabilitation. They were seen as places of exquisite torture where prisoners – men, women and children – would, for example, have to turn a crank handle a required number of times a day. This handle performed no useful purpose other than to pick up cupfuls of sand and empty them in an enclosed box outside their cell. If the warder felt particularly vindictive they could tighten the screw to make the process more arduous. Hence the universal prison slang term ‘screw’.

We might well be heading back into less enlightened times like these if The Sun newspaper has any say in the matter...

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