Anyone else seriously fed up?

Andy Mouncey
Thursday, 7 April 2022

I figured this was really what Richard Garside was asking in the subtext of his recent comment piece but was clearly too polite to say so.

Well I was, and I wasn’t – and like him I’d seen the latest Prisons Strategy White Paper and thought I could see the future. And it wasn’t bright.

Feeling alone with only a dark future for company is not a nice place to be so I sent Richard a note. “Would you mind expanding on that for the website?” he asked. Er…

So here’s my five-penny-worth, based on what I’ve seen and heard and felt in ten years working both sides of the bars – and of course it starts with us taking a hard look at ourselves.

Government: We need to be going about campaigning and reform in a way that is insulated from electoral cycles and is consistent with what government responds to – which for this one appears to be public opinion and saving money.

There are examples in industry of transformations of culture and infrastructure that have taken place over decades despite changes in Government – which means the templates are there.

Long Term: It should be approached as an endurance contest over decades.

Collaboration: I see most of us in the sector doing our own thing for our own cause in our own silo – I sure have – but if we left our egos and empires at the door?

Evidence: One of the things that came out of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Sport and Physical Activity in Criminal Justice – one of my areas of interest – was a call for evidence of things that work.

My perception is that we measure the hell out of this sector and we know and can prove what good practice looks like. Which means the evidence is there and the people making policy don’t recognise it or it’s not there because we’re measuring the wrong stuff.

Audience: I see lots of ‘look at me’ campaigning and preaching to the converted. We’re back to public opinion and framing the problem-solution so that more people give an informed damn about a subject that’s not a vote-winner historically. We have to help them humanize…

This is a timely topic for me as I’m being drawn into campaigning – so figuring what a meaningful version of that looks like is crucial. I don’t pretend to have all the answers – just opinions based on observation and experience – and I’m willing to have those poked with a stick and to collaborate, though the prospect of sticking my head above the parapet periodically gives me the willies.

There are days when I’ve come home and wept from what I’ve seen, heard and felt while working with men in prison. But that’s the point isn’t it – because I can come home and get a hug.

The harder question to face is the one that should come after the tears: ‘So What?’

So what am I going to do about that? What are you? What are we?

Andy Mouncey is Founder of Run For Your Life CIC

He writes and talks about his experiences working in our criminal justice system.