Reforming the prison system
I was interested to see some of the announcements made at the Conservative Party Conference about the intentions to fundamentally review the current prison estate.
I welcome the stated intention to close some of the antiquated Victorian establishments and the intention to replace them with modern developments constructed to better meet the rehabilitative needs of today's prison population. This will require decent healthcare facilities, provision of well resourced educational opportunities and world class recovery and rehabilitative interventions.
It is difficult to see how this can be delivered within the current requirements within MoJ to save 20-40% of their budget.
So here are some suggestions:
- Start planning from a portion that accepts there are simply too many people in prison. When Douglas Hurd was Home Secretary the prison population was around 45,000; today it is nearly double that
- We therefore have a once in a lifetime opportunity to re-think what we want from a justice system in terms of imprisonments versus community sentences
- Evidence is clear that smaller prisons create greater opportunities for rehabilitation so please resist any temptation to build bigger / cheaper 'super prisons'
- The prison system us bedevilled by two corresponding issues that limit its opportunity to be rehabilitative. Firstly the high proportion of people serving sentences that are so short that rehabilitative services cannot be provided. Secondly there is a high and rising proportion of the prison population that are older, in poorer health and serving longer (or indeterminate) sentences
- There is also a fundamental opportunity to consider the context through which punishment can be delivered, restriction of Liberty applied and rehabilitative services provided. The voluntary sector has a long and proud history of providing accommodation to offenders often under court / licence mandate. Within the Voluntary and Community Sector there is appetite, enthusiasm and expertise to support the Government in a fundamental review of our approach to punishment, justice and rehabilitation.
As an organisation Change Grow Live (CGL) is ready to work with the Government to help reduce the costs of the criminal justice system and we believe this is best done through effective rehabilitation as an integral part of punishment and restoration.
Image (cropped) by Chmee2 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons