Well, this has definitely been a year that people will talk about for generations to come. The legacy of 2020. However, although the year has yet to end and more is still to come – I mean for me, sorry, didn’t mean to worry you there–I’ve had a pretty decent year. I’m not saying it has been easy, Keef and I have had our problems to deal with along the way as the entire world also has. We’ve had to adapt to an alternative way of life. Let us be honest here, life will never be the same, even after all this has settled down. Good! I say, as long as the many positives which have arisen from the pandemic continue. A lot of important things have happened this year, I will not bore you with a long-list so I will just highlight two of them.
They are two things that from my perspective are extremely important. The first is the education system. Whatever the reasons behind any discussion, our education system has been up front and centre in several conversations throughout lockdown. Even the chief of Ofsted has finally linked school exclusions to criminal activity. The latest figures I have seen put the figure of those in youth custody institutions at 90% who were excluded from school at some point. In positive news, the youth custody population dropped by 70% over the last decade, but that does somewhat beg the question where all the adult prisoners are coming from that has left our prisons continually overcrowded? In the adult estate, the percentage of men and women excluded from school is 42%. A 70% drop in the numbers of our children being in custody is incredible and should be celebrated in the streets. It would be a muted celebration though, because the figures suggest they have done only enough until the individual is once again passed on to be someone else’s problem.
A closer inspection of the school to prison pipeline highlights some individuals get passed around more than a parcel in the traditional children’s birthday game pass the parcel. This is not just a journey that can and does happen sadly it is one all too common. A reason I always reiterate the point of looking behind the person who committed the crime as well as the crime committed. Another way to look at it is that victims (I prefer the term survivors) of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) are at a higher-risk of creating victims of crime. It is not a cast-iron guarantee, but it is likely.
Unfortunately, we can’t stop ACEs from happening, but what we can do is intervene a lot bloody earlier and stop future victims from being created. Who knows? Over time, maybe, just maybe, the more early intervention, understanding, training and resources that are made available now, where they are needed, in our homes, schools, our children’s services and youth organisations we can start talking about ACEs as a rarity and not as a common-denominator for a life of drug abuse, criminal activity and stuck in the revolving doors of our criminal justice system. Is that really a future we want for our children and grandchildren?
The second extremely important thing to happen this year through lockdown is something I will type about with my fingers crossed. Digital technology within our prisons. I know for security it is a touchy subject and something that shits the life out of the Ministry of Justice who can only envisage The Daily Mail headline of “LAGS ONLINE” Prisoners at a prison order supper from Just Eat. No doubt the prison will end up being a resettlement prison where our prisoners go to prepare for a life outside and part of a release program. It should only be a few days and you will hear about the delightful prison Christmas Dinner with all the trimmings HMP menus. No, it has not been perfect, and I wish that a lot more had been done and sooner but, regarding our technologically outdated prison system, I feel we have taken one giant leap for mankind, oops got carried away there, giant steps forward in the provision in our prisons of modern digital technology. May the establishment finally embrace the wonders that technology can bring to the holy grail of the reduction of re-offending, and long may it continue.
There was also an announcement this year and quite recent that the government’s Education Committee have set-up an inquiry looking into prison education and asking ‘are prisoners being left behind?’ It is only an inquiry, however, the outside for once is looking inside. Let us hope and pray they make a difference and change will happen.
It has to happen.