The launch of the Prisoner Policy Network at HMP Grendon
I recently visited HMP Grendon to attend the launch of the Prisoner Policy Network organised by the Prison Reform Trust. The network aims to bring people with lived expertise of imprisonment together to provide insight into national policy issues that are currently being discussed. Prisoners and ex-offenders can share their views by email, phone or post. Once all the submissions have been collated, the report will be sent to government department officials and key decision makers.
The first policy question up for debate is ‘What incentives work in prison?’ This question was posed at the event to a panel made up of former prisoners and further discussed by participants in small groups.
The subsequent debate highlighted that allowing prisoners to share their views may initially be perceived by some as a threat – empowered prisoners equals danger. The other side of the equation was - what happens if we don’t give prisoners a voice. The reality is prisoner feedback represents a massive opportunity to promote positive change. More often than not prisoners are the people who have the solutions to the issues affecting them. A participant commented ‘This is about evolution not revolution’
There was also a feeling that policy makers are currently too detached from the realities of prison life so there is a real need to encourage a dialogue around what actually works. One participant commented that the best way to achieve lasting change involves co-design – not only listening to the views of prisoners but also enabling them to actively working together with staff to solve common problems. One example of this involved attaching prisoners to staff in charge of functional departments so that they could act as advisors.