Early Day Motion 2595

A campaign is currently being passed around Parliament in favour of community sentences. The Early Day Motion 2595 has gained 34 signatures from MPs and is supported by the Howard League for penal reform.

The campaign aims to replace short-term sentences with community work, in the belief that prison fails to rehabilitate or prevent further crime.

Community sentences cost around a tenth of what it costs to send a person to prison for a year, and so with severe budget cuts looming and prison populations rising, a solution must be sought.

Aside from the benefit of lower costs, community sentences have proved to be far more effective at reducing re-offending rates and ‘offer a proportionate response to relatively minor offences in comparison to short-term prison sentences which often result in loss of employment, family breakdown and homelessness’.

You can read the full motion HERE.

The Howard League is urging members of the public to write to their MP, and get them to support the campaign.

To find out more, or use one of their pre-written templates visit howardleague.org




        “The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.”  

                                          Fyodor Dostoyevsky – 1862

Overseas: ‘Can Food Be A Cruel And Unusual Punishment?’ – Times.com 02.04.12

Here is an article on the ‘Nutriloaf’ – a meal served in some prisons in America. After making several inmates ill for days after eating it, the food may be declared ‘unconstitutional’. The Milwaukee prison that dished it out said the Nutriloaf was a ‘nutritious substance for regular meals’ and yet is unwilling to pass on the recipe.

Read the full article here.

Hiatus Status.

Apologies for the lengthened hiatus. Other projects took centre stage in the recent months, but hopefully we can pick up where we left off…

Today, there was a story in the papers about a  21-year-old black male who was assaulted by police. Luckily the man was able to record the ordeal via his phone, and the audio revealed both racist and physical abuse.

One officer can be heard saying ‘You know the problem with you is you will always be a nigger’. It appears the officer also strangled the man, kneeled on his chest and called him a ‘cunt’.

The incident happened the day after last summer’s riots. The man was stopped in his car before being taken into the police van, where he was subjected to the abuse.

Initially the the Independent Police Complaints Commission referred the case to the Crown Prosecution Service following a complaint. The case identified three police officers, who had potentially committed discriminatory offences.

The CPS dropped the case and ruled that the officers would have no charges brought against them.

It is now only being reviewed after the lawyers of the 21-year-old male threatened to challenge the ruling in High Court. With the damning evidence, it is clear that they have a strong case. Unfortunately, the case has highlighted a huge problem in dealing with police racism and abuse.

The incident happened in Beckton, London. There were eight officers, all from the Newham Borough (many officers were on the streets around this time due to the riots).

In light of this case, other Newham workers have come forward to say that incidents like these happen often, and are reported and complained about often. Luckily, in this case the victim was smart enough to record the ordeal on his phone.

The case is likely to leave a bad stain on the workings of the CPS, the police and Scotland Yard. To have taken a harsh approach to those involved in the riots, and then ignored the seriousness of this case, is worrying to say the least. But not altogether surprising.

Corruption and racism within the forces has long plagued the police. HIghlighted for years in the Stephen Lawrence case, which in 2012, finally saw the imprisonment of two people, 18 years after the racist murder of the black teenager in South London.

The acts and intervention of police are the first contact with the penal system in many cases. While it is important to say there are many officers who do their job well and without  discrimination, there is still strong evidence of the ones that don’t. Furtherstill, there is evidence that these officers are protected by the Courts. Fatal for a justice system.

The full Guardian report and some of the recording can be heard here.

The Prison Reform Trust – Talking Justice : Talking Sense

‘Prisons have become warehouses of our social problems’

Colin Moses – Chairman of POA Prison Officers Association 2002-2011


The Prison Reform Trust (PRT) is, in their own words, ‘an independent UK charity working to create a just, humane and effective penal system‘.

They have recently released a six minute film called ‘Talking Justice : Talking Sense’ presenting the case for prison as a last resort, as prisons reach close to capacity.

There are some poignant messages and certainly some food for thought as the loopholes and pitfalls of the current system are highlighted, and they make for some grave results.

The conclusion is finding alternatives. Restorative Justice comes up as one positive suggestion as Peter Woolf, a man who spent 18.5 years in prison and committed thousands of crimes finally found the will to change after facing his last victim Will Riley, in a meeting that changed both of their lives. For the better.

Take six minutes to watch the film HERE.

There is also a chance to hear each contributor speak for two minutes each HERE.

There must be…There are alternatives and these are being demonstrated in other countries but we seem so fascinated, obsessed with locking people up in this country from a very early age and for quite minor offences that we lose sight of the fact that prison should be for serious offenders and only that justifies the expense.’

Paul Tidball

President, Prison Governors Association 2006 – 2010

‘It shouldn’t become a big private industry that trades on people’s misery. It shouldn’t be an alternative welfare state where the vulnerable, the mentally ill and the illiterate founder away for years on end with no hope of rehabilitation.’

Shami Chakrabarti

Director, Liberty

Article: ‘Prison leaves 17,000 children separated from their mothers’.

I came across this GUARDIAN ARTICLE whilst doing some research. It was published a couple of months ago, and details the statistics from research undertaken by the Howard League – a penal reform trust.

The report, called ‘The Voice of a Child’, showed that over 17,000 children were separated from their mothers in England and Wales in 2010.

                                                 IMAGE: THE GUARDIAN

The consequences cause ‘long term emotional, social and psychological damage’ for the children because of restrictions on visiting hours which are mainly only allowed during daytimes when children should be at school.

The Howard League also found that many of the mothers were imprisoned for non-violent offences, which could have been punished in the community, meaning that 11,000 of these cases would not have lead to the separation of mother and child.

The matter is also affected by the number of women who are in prison awaiting trial, only to be found not guilty.

The Howard League suggests that mothers should be placed in secure units that can provide better visiting hours, and also to end the imprisonment of those who are convicted of non-violent offences.


Prison Statistics.

I mentioned in passing in the first post that prisons had reached a record number of inmates. Using the Prison Population Statistics from Parliament UK I can explain these in more detail, and also take a look at a couple of other findings from the report.

The report was published 7th November 2011.

  • On 5th November the prison population across the entire prison estate in England and Wales stood at 87,749. This is 1650 places below full capacity. This is partly blamed on the arrests from the August Riots which totalled 846.
  • On 22nd February 2008, the population exceeded useable capacity for the first time.
  • Capacity is measured as 2000 places below the operational capacity, as this allows room for those with special requirements, extra space or separation.

Though the prisons are at the moment below capacity, this does not mean that prisons are not full. Populations vary. At the end of September 2011, 85 of the prisons (63%) were overcrowded. Of these, 15% were at levels of 150% of capacity.

Capacity is measured using CNA – Certified Normal Accomodation.

Scotland reached 8,000 inmates in August 2008.

Here are some interesting comments found under Section 1.7 Overcrowding:

Although there is a lack of empirical evidence, the anecdotal evidence suggests that prison overcrowding leads to an increase in re-offending. Approximately two-thirds of adult offenders commit an offence within two-years of release from prison and are subsequently convicted in court.

In a speech in September 2005 the then Home Secretary, Rt. Hon Charles Clarke MP, emphasised the need to reduce prisoners’ re-offending by improving their employability, treating drug and alcohol addiction and maintaining family links via a new network of community prisons. The Prison Reform Trust, which the Home Secretary was addressing, suggested that overcrowding hazards these ambitions.

A National Audit Office report concluded that prison overcrowding disrupts work to prevent re-offending and prisons should therefore change the way they deliver education courses.

The Home Affairs Select Committee inquiry into the rehabilitation of offenders suggested that ‘overcrowding is having a hugely damaging impact on the delivery of rehabilitative regimes across the prison estate, both in terms of quality and quantity of appropriate interventions’. 

Similar comments were made in a report by the Social Exclusion Unit in 2002:

There is a growing consensus that we are sending some people to prison who should not be there. Short prison sentences are not appropriate for all the offenders who currently receive them; and too many people with severe mental illness are in prison rather than secure treatment facilities. All of this contributes to the problem of overcrowding, which in turn limits the capacity of prisons, probation and other services to work effectively to reduce re- offending.

You can read the full report here.