We should have public officials more accountable to Public participation and communication. The relationship between government and citizens is very important. Ultimately government is accountable to citizens for decisions taken, at a community level and at an individual level. Government should consult and involve communities in discussion about decisions that directly affect them. At an individual level citizens have the right to hold government to account for, and get reasons for government decisions that directly affect them.We have a responsibility to have an open dialogue to make sure they are serving you in the best way. if they are not replying are they serving you. How many people have written to an MP on an important matter regardless of prison or not and got no reply?
" communication problems "where did it all go wrong!
Prisons are getting more violent, they’re full to the brim.
The crisis in English and Welsh prisons is a longstanding one.
Back In 2014, the then-chief inspector of prisons, Nick Hardwick, warned of a “political and policy failure” in prisons. A Prison Reform Trust report showed a system under immense strain with high levels of overcrowding, fewer staff, worsening safety, and fewer opportunities for rehabilitation.
In February 2016, the former prime minister, David Cameron, announced a new set of prison reforms with the spotlight firmly on prison education. And although these reforms were welcomed by many, nothing was mentioned about the issues raised by Hardwick. Many reformers believed that the government hadn’t gone far enough. They argue that while education was seen as an essential part of cutting re-offending, it did not solve the ongoing crisis of overcrowding, staff cuts and an increase in violence and homicide.
Following Cameron’s departure from office in June, the new justice secretary Liz Truss refused to guarantee to a committee of MPs in September that the reforms would go ahead.
But as politicians hesitate prisons remain in crisis, toxic with drugs and violence, overcrowded and overseen by fewer staff to manage the problem. There are also rapidly growing numbers of old, sick and disabled people in prison aged over 50, with people over 60 the fastest growing age group in the prison population between 2002 and 2014.
Don’t imprison people unnecessarilyIn his report on the recent prison violence, the prison ombudsman reported that while there are lessons to be learned about improving safety after the recent murders, there is no easy solution. Yet it seems to me that there is a course of action that could help alleviate the problem: remove people from prison who don’t need to be there.
In 2012, the system of imprisoning people for their own protection – known as IPP – was abolished. These prisoners are serving an indefinite sentence of imprisonment for public protection, with no release date – equivalent to a life sentence. But four years after the sentence was scrapped, there are still around 4,000 IPP prisoners waiting to be released.
In theory, IPP prisoners can stay in prison for the rest of their lives. But such sentences are not reserved for violent crimes – thousands are serving IPP sentences for crimes such as affray, or group fighting. It is unique to England and Wales, which has more than three times as many people in prison serving an indeterminate sentence than France, Germany and Italy. This is partly because the judges who imposed the sentences have worried about possible backlash for releasing someone who “may” commit another violent crime.
But almost every prisoner who received an IPP sentence has now completed their prison term. Despite this they remain uncertain when they will ever be released.
If they had received the equivalent fixed sentence for their offence, all of them would have been released back into the community already which would have decreased the prison population. Understandably, however, some of those who have remained incarcerated may be still deemed to be a risk.
Crowding inIn 2015, the Prison Reform trust reported: “An explosion in the use of indeterminate sentences and the increased use of long determinate sentences are key drivers behind the near doubling of prison numbers in the past two decades.”
It explained that changes in prison policy and legislation have had a huge impact of the current surge of overcrowding which has pushed mandatory year-long supervision for short termers, mandatory minimum custodial sentences for those who commit a second offence of knife possession and restrictions of the use of release on temporary licence. Another contributory factor to the growing prison population is an increase in more serious and historic cases such as sexual offences going before courts as more victims of such crimes gain the courage to come forward.
There is also a wider story here about women’s prisons, with the majority of women prisoners locked up for a short period for non-violent offences. Most women in prison have different needs to their male counterparts, such as being closer to their children and families. Because there are only 13 women’s prisons, visits are much more difficult.
It’s worth acknowledging that even if all the IPP prisoners were to be released it would barely put a dent in the bursting prison population. But the role of prison has become blurred with some residents not needing to be there. Part of the solution to this overcrowding seems clear – but it is not so clear why the government won’t take radical action to rectify it.
Liz Truss puts prison reform bill on hold
Justice secretary refuses to guarantee that Gove’s bill, which was at heart of Cameron’s last Queen’s speech, will go ahead
Liz Truss sparked astonishment among MPs when she refused to guarantee to the Commons justice select committee that Gove’s prison reform legislation would go ahead.
Theresa May’s new government has pulled back from Michael Gove’s plan to introduce a major prisons bill, which formed the social reform centrepiece of David Cameron’s last Queen’s speech four months ago.
The new justice secretary, Liz Truss, sparked astonishment among MPs when she refused to guarantee to the Commons justice select committee that the government would proceed with Gove’s legislation.
When asked by the justice committee chairman if the bill was going to go ahead, she replied: “We are looking at that at the moment. It will be in the plan … I am not committing to any specific piece of legislation at this stage.”
Truss said it was essential that the prison reform programme would work and be deliverable, and implied that there was not yet any detailed Ministry of Justice plan to implement it.
“It is a bit difficult to say at this early stage. I want to lay out a plan. The pace of what is happening on the ground will not slow. The key thing is that it has to be deliverable and we have to do things in the right order. That is what I am looking at,” said Truss.
“I am working on a delivery plan at the moment, which we do not currently have.
“My predecessor was specifically focused on reform prisons, which I think are an excellent idea. I am looking at the overall system in which they operate as well … I am not committing to any specific piece of legislation at this stage. That will be in the plan.”
The Conservative chairman of the committee, Bob Neill, expressed astonishment that Truss could not guarantee the centrepiece of the Queen’s speech, asking: “Are we not going to get one? It is surprising that you can’t tell us whether it will happen in this session.”
Gove promised that a prison reform green paper would be published this autumn and a major prison and courts reform bill introduced early next year. He announced the creation of six “reform” prisons, including Wandsworth in London, but the promised autonomy for their governors is severely restricted by current legislation.
The decision to pause Gove’s prison plans and test whether they can actually work represents a major departure by May from Gove’s programme, which was strongly endorsed by Cameron in a major speech.
In her first appearance before the justice select committee, Truss made clear she would not “arbitrarily” cut the current 85,000 prison population to deal with budget pressures.
She did commit to opening five new prisons by 2020 but was not able to say how much of the £1.3bn cost of building them would have to come from the capital receipts of selling existing dilapidated inner-city prisons.
The justice secretary also declined to give further details of the new specialist “jihadi” units in maximum security jails saying only that they would hold a small number of the most subversive prisoners. But she refused to say how many units were planned or how many they would hold.
A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: “The government remains totally committed to legislating on prison reform and will come forward with plans in due course.
“We also remain committed to legislating on reform of our court system to provide a better and more efficient service. Again, we will come forward with plans in due course.”
Labour’s Jo Stevens, the shadow justice minister, said Truss’s appearance showed Conservative prison policy was in tatters. “Urgent action is long overdue and the prison reform bill was the central piece of this year’s lightweight Queen’s speech, but today she refused to confirm its fate,” Stevens said.
“By failing to tackle the prisons crisis which developed on their watch, the Tories have yet again demonstrated that they have no plan for the challenges this country faces.”
Truss also faced criticism from the Liberal Democrats’ justice spokesman, Jonathan Marks, who said the government had “dropped” its prison reform agenda. He said: “It is a mark of this reckless, divisive and uncaring government that they are pushing full steam ahead with their plans to scrap our Human Rights Act in a bid to fulfil an ill-conceived manifesto promise whilst postponing much needed prison reform.
“Our prisons are overcrowded and England and Wales continue to have the highest imprisonment in western Europe. This has led to increased violence in our prisons and the highest number of deaths in prison on record. If this government does not look seriously at reducing the prison population there will be a crisis on our hands.”
Transformative power of education
David Cameron’s prison reform speech came one day shy of the 18th anniversary of my release from prison.
During my 30 months of incarceration for grievous bodily harm, I used every day to develop my learning – which I didn’t do much of at school. And for the first time in my life I had an education.
Education played a massive part in my life both in and after prison, which is why I was pleased to hear it will be one of the key improvements in the prime minister’s prison reform agenda. Plans were also announced to give former prisoners a better chance of getting job interviews by allowing them to apply for positions without declaring “unspent” convictions straight away.
From experience, this is often the first stumbling block whenever you are asked to tick the criminal declaration box on job application forms. So a simple change like this could make a massive difference to prisoners in the future.
Although for me, education was a way out, there is still a massive reluctance among many in the prison population to engage with education. The difficulty in getting prisoners to study is that for many stepping back into a classroom is the last thing they want to do. They have had bad school experiences sometimes including truancy and exclusion.
I remember having these feelings myself for many years and for the same reasons. It wasn’t until I read autobiographies during my incarceration by two infamous criminals: one of whom turned into a writer and academic, John McVicar and another who became a writer and renowned sculptor, Jimmy Boyle, that I then felt it was acceptable to become a student.
Back to basics
Prisoners tend to lack basic literacy and numeracy skills, but these should not be considered the measure of their overall intelligence, as there are many very talented prisoners with undiscovered artistic and creative skills. During a recent visit to HMP Durham, I was humbled by the level of talent and skills I saw in the workshops – and it made me sad to think it could all go to waste if someone doesn’t give them a chance.
Despite this lack of basic skills among prisoners, education is in great demand. Once they get back in the classroom and realise it’s not as scary as they remember, that’s where the real magic can start to happen. This can be seen with the interest in educational programmes such as “Inside-Out” and “Learning Together” where university students study alongside prisoners. These programmes have shown the true determination and eagerness from prisoners wanting to learn, which should send out a clear message that prisoners want to change their lives through education.
But even when prisoners want to improve themselves, recent studies have highlighted poor accommodation and discriminatory policies and procedures by colleges and employers as some of the biggest barriers ex-prisoners face in finding work. While this research specifically looked at those who have just got out of prison, some of these barriers can apply to anyone trying to find employment or continue education with criminal records – it isn’t just those who have been inside who find it hard to get a job.
I am now in the final year of my PhD on former prisoners in higher education, and as part of my study I have encountered a lot of deeply worrying stories about difficulties in entering education after incarceration. It is clear most ex-prisoners sadly experience the continual barriers I faced after being released from prison all those years ago. The statistics speak for themselves: re-offend within a year of release while 60% of short-sentenced prisoners will re-offend in the same period. It is estimated .
With the continually growing prison population a cause for major concern, perhaps there needs to be less emphasis on criminal backgrounds !
and more on the person’s eagerness to work? I have seen the numbers inside rise for myself. My first spell in prison was between 1983 and 1985. On my release the then worrying overcrowded prison population in England and Wales was at 48,165. When I was released again in 1998 from my last sentence, the number of prisoners in UK prisons stood at [66,520]((http://www.howardleague.org/weekly-prison-watch). http://www.howardleague.org/weekly-prison-watch).
But if more of these prisoners could experience the transformative power of education, as I have, maybe we could see less re-offending, and a reduction in prison numbers. I welcome the prime minister’s message that prisoners should be treated as “assets” rather than “liabilities”. This is a clear step in the right direction to enable ex-prisoners to feel more integrated and accepted by society.
Offline inmates denied education and skills that reduce re-offendingWith prisons becoming increasingly overcrowded as a consequence of the “tough on crime” policies of many politicians, we should be looking at ways of reducing recidivism through providing quality education that adequately prepares prisoners for the outside world.