Many people are entirely unaware and rightly shocked to find out that you can end up in prison for owing council tax or for not paying TV licence fines. Debtors’ prisons are alive and well in 2019.
However, the period of detention is subject to statutory time-limits – initially 24 hours from the time of arrival at the police station – although (provided certain conditions are satisfied) this may be extended to 36 hours by a senior officer, and up to a total of four days by a magistrates’ court.
How far have we come in those ten years in achieving an evidence-informed drug policy, and in protecting the independence of scientific advice?
In short, my concern is that our current prohibitionist approach results in far too many young people being violently victimised and criminalised as a result of their involvement in illicit drug markets.
Here was someone, I thought at the time, who was deeply serious about his work, without taking himself too seriously. His considered, evidenced and accessible explanation of a science-informed approach to drugs was one of the highlights of a conference studded with interesting presentations. When, a year later, we were thinking about who to invite to deliver our forthcoming 2009 annual lecture, David was top of the list.
It was not long after the end of a supervisory experience that resonated with me for many years afterwards, that I came upon one of the most unflinchingly moving accounts of alcoholism and the struggle to recover from its dependency that I have had read. John Healy's The Grass Arena was awarded the J R Ackerley prize for The Best Literary Autobiography of 1988.
Though prisons are portrayed as controlled and regimented environments, they are now out of control. In England, single-occupancy cells are crammed, often with two or three prisoners locked in 22 hours per day and eating only inches from their filthy toilets.
The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights has issued its report on children’s rights when mothers are sentenced to imprisonment. The report is clear that there is an urgent need for reform.
I was pleased to be invited to speak at a workshop with exactly that hopeful title, organised by Haringey Council on 11 September.
Louise King, Director of the Children’s Rights Alliance for England (Just for Kids Law), hit the right note at the outset by explaining how the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child provided a principled foundation for making sure that children in trouble with the law were dealt with outside a criminal justice setting.
It was with considerable sadness that I read of the recent passing of one of probation's most trenchant public defenders, Professor Paul Senior.
Quite quickly it became clear to me that how we talk about transgender prisoners can itself be a barrier to debate, understanding and effective policy.
Some, for instance, reject the notion that the birth sex of transgender prisoners is a relevant consideration. As a result, referring to trans women as "male-born" is, for some, tantamount to transphobia.
One of the more enduringly memorable events that I had the good fortune to experience during my 20 years working as a front-line probation officer, was attending an annual residential conference held in a hilltop hotel overlooking one of Cumbria's wonderful lakes - Windermere.