Thursday, January 25, 2007

Prisons, Prisons

This is an emotive subject. It isn't something I should really be writing about having not had enough sleep and being up late, but there we go.

Anyone who doesn't have their head in a bucket will notice the furore going on about prison overcrowding. I don't really want to talk about that.

I am more interested in the issue of whether prison works in the first place. Extra Special is also running a series on Jails.

The popular and tabloid press seem to consistently overlook this rather fundamental question. The Sun simply calls for more prisons, disused army camps, ships, anything with a metal door and a lock to be used as a prison "to lock these dangerous people away". I can't bear to make myself trawl through the daily mail online to see what they have to say.

In my humble, lowly opinion, prison is effective. In one respect. It takes a convicted offender out of the circulation of the public.

It seems to me that the popular clamour for people to be sent down is short sighted. People just want people to be punished, and locking them up is a punishment. Yes, correct.

But my concern with prison is that it can cause more problems than it solves. Someone in prison cannot work. If they had a job, then they'd lose it. If they had a flat, then they'd lose it. I've read too many reports of how when a sentence is finished then they are simply escorted to the front gates and abandoned. How can this be a strategy to reduce reoffending?

A while ago the Guardian ran a thought provoking insight into the sheer ineffictiveness of just throwing people in prison without much thought beyond satisfying political populism. For those of you with the time, read this article. I have to admit I was of the point of view of "throw people in prison, they shouldn't have committed crime in the first place should they". Reading this article made me realise I was blinkered and short sighted.

I've said before the government often seems embarrassed to admit they need a police force. They are even more embarrassed to admit they need a prison service. There has been a chronic lack of funding and direction from the government for years regarding prisons- (NB- does anyone know of any prison officer blogs?)

I would love to see properly enforced probation and community service. But they again have had so little funding scum types can get away with ignoring these sentences and laughing at them, which only goes to fuel media hype deriding them.

I don't quite know what my point is here. I'm quite aware this post isn't exactly a cohesive argument. I think its to counter the stereotype I have been on recieving end of over the last day or so with this overcrowding malarkey, namely that people think I'm in the police and therefore I must want to throw everyone in jail.

No, I don't. I'd much rather not be in the position where I have to consider that in the first place. Unfortunately, the prison service in its current state does not help reduce reoffending rates, and in many cases almost leaves it inevitable. And no, I don't always think a custodial sentence is the best thing.

Before I get criticised- don't anyone think for a minute that I think serious crime should be dealt with by community service etc. Paedophiles, stranger rapists etc- I want one of them living near me and my family as much as any of you. Which is not at all.

My head is swimming. Hopefully (I daren't read through this post, it is bound to have terrible grammar and ropey spelling) I've put across some views about prison and what happens when people leave prison. I want to open up the floor. When you've sat and thought about it, leave a comment. I'm going to be busy for the next few days, so give me something to think about.

I am definitely heading off to bed now. Goodnight all.

An update after a decent night's sleep: A couple of links for you all to look at: Smart Justice and Prison Reform. Another day, I shall post something a bit more comprehensive about prison. But I have to admit at the moment I am struggling to motivate myself to write on here. I can't do what I really want to do on here, which is let the blog be my catharsis for the worst jobs and most frustrating bits of beauracracy that drive me mad. If I do that, every time I post "emotionally" soon after said event, the chances of my being found out increase. I heard my colleaugues talk about police blogs they look at the other day and I swear my internal temperature shot up about 5 degrees. So I know they look at these, and so I daren't post about things that they might recognise. So........... I'm not sure what direction I'm heading with this blog. Maybe I need a bit of time to let it lie still and let me reflect.