A phrase drawn from the book caught my attention and offered an evocative memory of a particular supervisory experience at the beginning of my time as a probation officer. When I was first introduced to Santiago (not his real name) in the waiting area of the probation office, I was settling into my induction period in an area of the capital that was then marked by economic hardship and at times volatile community/police relations.
These are the words of Alison, a nurse at a prison in Wales, talking to The Guardian about the physical impact of extreme lockdown. Many prisoners across the UK are confined to their cells for 23 hours a day, with drastic curbs on exercise and family contact.
Lockdown has widely been acknowledged as creating a new de facto system of solitary confinement. Whilst the current lockdown restrictions have been criticised, for example, by Peter Clarke, the outgoing HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, as inherently harmful to prisoner wellbeing and mental health, the Prison Officers' Association (POA) continue to endorse the prison lockdown, arguing that it has resulted in increased safety, reduced violence and ‘more stable prison environments’.
Secretaries of State for Justice have come and gone, and political debate has been consumed by Brexit, Covid-19 and other pressing issues. Now we have a White Paper, A Smarter Approach to Sentencing, whose title may even be said to under-state its scope. It does contain proposals for changes to the sentencing system.
Whilst I do recall an irate prisoner during a prison visit threatening to dispatch my then line manager in similar tones, what clicked into place, when reading this moving and vivid collection of stories, was a routine interview for a pre-sentence report that almost brought the court to a halt!
The phrase, 'all coppers are bastards' often shortened to a pejorative acronym, was very much a piece of wall graffiti I recall from the 1970s.
The Woolf Report (1991) was commissioned in the aftermath of the disturbances at HMP Strangeways between 1 – 25 April 1990. The Strangeways disturbances were the longest in UK penal history and sparked riots in twenty-five further institutions, including Glen Parva, Dartmoor, Cardiff, Bristol and Pucklechurch. On publication the Woolf Report was acclaimed as the blueprint for prison policy for the next three decades.
I have arranged dozens of headline speakers over many years and thought that I might be allowed a forgivable departure from casework recollections in today's post. I want to highlight some of the more memorable of these speakers and in particular one guest speaker whose memory I will always cherish.
The torch of truth that 2020 has allowed to shine brighter than ever before is now turning to the dark and hidden corners of the prison system. Despite the decades-long campaigns of many organisations and countless exposé documentaries, America’s criminal justice system has now finally been pushed to the forefront of the global conversation on racism.
COVID-19 in European prisons: Tracking preparedness, prevention and control compares work being done to prevent, contain and tackle coronavirus in prisons across nine European jurisdictions, including the three UK ones.