Once again we have an announcement from the UK government, over a weekend or bank holiday, with regards to our prisons. This heading and sub-heading coming from Bloomberg politics.
‘U.K.’s Johnson Unveils $3 Billion Jail Plan to Ease Overcrowding’
U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he plans to spend as much as 2.5 billion pounds ($3 billion) building an extra 10,000 spaces in prisons to tackle overcrowding in jails and crack down on crime.
It’s difficult to know where to start in highlighting what is wrong with the above. Not only is it misleading to infer that the crime rate and prison numbers are connected, but it is also misleading to make out this is some new ‘Johnson’ plan to tackle an issue that has seen this same plan, and similar headline, regurgitated over and over by both Labour and the Tories since the beginning of this century.
Let us first remove one obvious point. Staff. Don’t forget they will also be looking for 20,000 police officers at the same time. The prison system has not only struggled to recruit the staff they have just as much trouble retaining staff. What are the plans for these new prisons one wonders, in respect of duties prison staff will be expected to carry out? Will the term ‘turn-key’ be common once again? The ability to use a key and show up for work the only future requirements? Job security equalling the absence of whistleblowers?
Let us next consider the ‘new’ prisoners’. To begin with, I do not believe we are close to being overcrowded to the tune of 10,000. If I recall, we have recently had consecutive months where the population has decreased, although there was a slight increase in the latest figures released. HMP Berwyn, which opened in 2017 was earlier this year inspected by HM Chief Inspector of Prisons. The following is an extract from the introduction to the published findings. (The full report can be read here.)
“Designated a category C training prison, the establishment held 1,273 prisoners at the time of the inspection. They were held in three residential units, which in turn were subdivided in to a total of eight communities. In time the prison will be able to hold 2,106 prisoners, although we were told that currently numbers are capped to
allow for the build up of staff as well as additional activity for prisoners.”
It seems a bizarre statement for the prime minister to make, that these new prison spaces are needed to ease overcrowding when there are more than enough ‘vacancies within’, without including HMP’s Wellingborough redevelopment and the Glen Parva rebuild. I can only calculate that either there will be a lot of expensive empty prison cells or our prime minister has some form of Rudy Giuliani zero-tolerance plan in the pipeline? I should point out that all future ‘new’ prisons will be private and will, therefore, have shareholders who will not be happy in seeing empty rooms within the prisons in which they have invested heavily for a return on their money. Any reader of my articles highlighting Core Civic, the American for-profit prison provider, will know the roads that can lead us to. (This is a link to part one of three parts of my world exclusives via The Norwich Radical, part’s two and three are also available through this link – https://thenorwichradical.com/2019/04/08/core-civic-does-not-dispute-organised-sexual-harassment-program-against-immigrants/)
This is a quote by justice secretary Robert Buckland, from the same Bloomberg article as the headline:
“The Prime Minister is putting prisons at the heart of our bold plan to create a justice system which cuts crime and protects law-abiding people. More and better prison places means less re-offending and a lower burden on the taxpayer in the future,”
A justice system, I agree, is there to protect the public and to reduce crime, that is almost a given. However, to say that more “prison places mean less re-offending” and “a lower burden on the taxpayer in the future” is just a hopeful guess based on nothing whatsoever. I would even go as far as to say that all the evidence would undermine the statements coming out of government over this weekend.
It isn’t a ‘criminal justice policy’ that will cut crime, reduce re-offending, protect the law-abiding people and ensure a lower burden on the taxpayer in the future. We need ‘social policies’ ones that provide equal life chances and not the crippling austerity measures that have seen the poverty gap widen.
STOP! trying to shame, bully or incarcerate your the governments’ obligation to its citizens and citizen’s obligation to their own.