This evoked a poignant memory of my supervisory relationship with Sergio (not his real name) after I had recently transferred to working in a probation office in Central London. For many years prior to this change of work setting, I had been pondering an emotionally unsettling memory, resulting from what I regarded at the time as a callously offhand comment made by a senior probation officer following the death of one of my female clients from a drug overdose.
These demands, largely from prison officers and their union The Prison Officers Association (POA), have pointed to the increasing risk of violence to prison officers from prisoners. Such calls, and the recorded data on prison officer assaults, has entered the public debate with very little controversy. Yet there is a glaring omission in contemporary debates about physical violence in prison – the violence of prison officers.
This painful and angry message reflected the motivation behind what became the longest demonstration in British prison history.
Many of the families we supported were visiting loved ones in the prison then known as Strangeways. The stories they shared and our own knowledge of supporting our loved ones in that situation, were informing us that there were major problems at the prison, including overcrowding, negative staff culture, and ‘Dickensian’ visiting conditions.
Public pronouncements by the government about the aims of the prison system makes clear that its most important objectives are punishing offenders, protecting the public and reducing reoffending. This suggests the prison system has the capacity to simultaneously punish and rehabilitate individuals. However, the hegemonic role of punishment and its impact on the ability of prisons to also rehabilitate those in its charge remains one of the most contentious issues.
The prison therefore functions ideologically as an abstract site into which undesirables are deposited, relieving us of the responsibility of thinking about the real issues afflicting those communities from which prisoners are drawn in such disproportionate numbers.
Many do support cost-effective, rehabilitative options over punishment. Indeed, this seems to be reflected in opinion polls suggesting a large majority of the population not only support prison but advocate harsher prison conditions.
Five individuals arrived in the UK illegally and claimed asylum; two from Iraq, two from Afghanistan and one from Iran. Two had already claimed asylum in Bulgaria, two in Austria, and one in Bulgaria, Hungary and Austria. All were to be sent back to the countries where they first claimed asylum. They were all detained in the UK for periods between five and 16 weeks. They brought judicial review proceedings to challenge the lawfulness of their detention.
Hayes offers a critical overview on how the reliance of much of the current criminal justice policymaking in England and Wales on punitive and harshly retributive interventionist measures, could be better reconceptualised and more enduring progressive reforms made possible.