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Government must act to stop Humanitarian Prison Crisis

Dean Kingham provides his insight on the Riots at the Mount. He says the Government MUST act to stop a Humanitarian Prison Crisis.

"The Government are failing the public in respect of prisons.

Not a week goes by without a damning report from the Prison Inspectorate or IMB being released.

Currently, almost daily we are hearing of disturbances and riots across the prison estate.

What is currently happening at the Mount was perfectly foreseeable. The SSJ has been consistently advised of this from a whole range of bodies within our system.

Back when the Government consulted on legal aid for prisoners I ended my response with in the words of the Kaiser Chief’s - “I predict a riot”.

The Government has systematically reduced prison officers numbers throughout the estate. Currently, prisons have insufficient staffing levels, which increases volatility.

In law we have basic minimum standards. But, many prisons have not been adhering to these, meaning prisoners are locked up 23 hours + per day.

The lack of meaningful regimes, constructive employment, rehabilitation opportunities, family contact and gym are only going to frustrate individuals.

If you treat people like animals and then unlock them, what do you expect?

Nelson Mandela’s quote epitomizes this, “It is said that no one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails. A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens, but its lowest ones.”

Some of the public tend to view prisons as holiday camps, but I don’t know any holiday camps whereby the staff are frightened to walk around and there are unprecedented levels of violence.

The system is broken and needs fixing. All we hear from the Government is those responsible for causing problems in prison will be punished.

No one in Government ever looks at the underlying problem. The underlying problems are easy to see:

  • We lock up a disproportionately high number of people;
  • We don’t release enough that can be safely released;
  • Those mentally unwell in prison are not getting proper help;
  • Lack of suitably trained staff;
  • Daft policies introduced by ideological ministers; and
  • Too many people are recalled, who do not need to be recalled from the community

If one wants to see a list of daft policies introduced by ministers, the starting point is Chris Grayling who has been taken to Court numerous times and his policies overturned.

Currently, the SSJ is introducing a smoking ban. The smoking ban has the potential to create more volatility in prison at a time whereby it is patently unsafe.

Common sense would say now is not the time.

No Secretary of State of Justice is brave enough to cut prison populations. Instead we build more prisons, which is absurd because we cannot get our current ones working.

The average prison place for a year costs £40,000 there is a real economic argument for reducing the prison population where it is safe to do so. I’m not saying we should release dangerous people.

But, with appropriate changes those not a risk to the public could be out of prison contributing to society.

At Parole Board hearings I often see individuals giving evidence that don’t really know what the Board’s test is and dilute it.

Nearly every Parole hearing I do I rely on the high risk environment the individual lives in to demonstrate he is not violent.

The prison system has deteriorated since I’ve being doing this job and the race to the bottom seems to continue.

Only recently, I draft a pre-action protocol letter for Judicial Review for a client who had no toilet seat or lid. In 2017 Britain, is this really what should be doing?

If you want to rehabilitate you need to treat the men and women as humans. All we are doing is making them more violent, more volatile and giving them substance issues. In due course releasing them in society often worse than when they went in.

No SSJ has publicly made a statement on how they intend to genuinely improve the prison system.

The time is now to act."

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