I’m not a fan of Alice in Wonderland. In fact, I’m not sure if I’ve even read the whole story.

But I do know that when she fell through that rabbit hole Alice entered a fantasy world in which the most bizarre things occurred. At one point for example she participated in a croquet game, in which hedgehogs were used as balls, flamingos as mallets, and soldiers acted as gates! As I understand it the story is an example of what is known as the ‘literary nonsense’ genre.

I found myself wondering if I had fallen through a rabbit hole the other day when I heard Andrew Malkinson being interviewed on Radio 4. Malkinson has suffered in the most horrendous way having served 17 years in prison for a rape he did not commit.

Thankfully his conviction has been overturned by the Court of Appeal and that part of his terrible ordeal is over. In that sense he has woken from a ‘real bad dream happening in real time’.

Mr Malkinson told his interviewer that “once you’ve been convicted, you’re processed like meat in an abattoir”.

I was deeply saddened to hear him say this. No one should be treated in that way.

Yes, criminals need to be apprehended and they certainly need to be punished in a manner that fits the crime. Imprisonment should be about rehabilitation, as vital as that is.

The ancient Jewish maxim of an ‘eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth’ is helpful here because it prohibited revenge while giving judges some guidance in how they should calculate the punishment offenders were to receive. Having said that though, we must never forget that Jesus teaches us a better way when it comes to personal relationships. They should be shaped by love.

But I was not simply saddened, I was taken aback when I heard him say that even if he does receive compensation for his wrongful conviction, he may well have to hand over some of it to the Prison Service as ‘board and lodging’ for the time he spent in prison, and I believe he is not the first to fall foul of these ridiculous rules.

This was news to me, and I couldn’t help comparing his experience with the inspiring story of the nineteenth century preacher Canon Andrew Fausset.

Fausset owned lands in Ireland and was approached by some of his tenants during a severe potato famine. They were penniless and begged him to release them from their debts.

He replied that it would set a bad precedent and so he couldn’t accede to their request. But at the very same time he gave them a monetary gift that more than covered their debts.

I believe we need laws that are shaped by a sense of justice, and a justice system that is more than willing to admit its mistakes. But we also need to cultivate and nurture a culture of generosity, a culture that reflects the generosity of God.

With this in mind then, I hope that Mr Malkinson and any others who have been treated in a similar way will get what they deserve, and that certainly won’t include a bill for ‘board and lodging’!