Porridge isn’t working

According to Freedom of Information figures published by the ‘Byline Times’ (motto: what the papers don’t say):

Thousands of prison officers have been referred for mental health-related assessments in the past year-and-a-half – almost one in eight (12%) of the total number in the role…….

….The figures come at a time when violence in prisons continues to escalate. The Government’s latest ‘safety in custody’ statistics, published today, reveal that assaults between prisoners and on staff, suicides and self-harm incidents all continued to increase in 2018, with some at ‘record highs’. Assaults on staff rose by 29% on the previous year.

According to Steve Gillan, general secretary of the Prison Officers Association, “There now needs to be a study by the Government into the effects on the health and safety of prison staff and decent packages in place where prison officers can seek help.

There I fear is a man with a poverty of aspiration. There is no earthly need for any government study.

It is blindingly obvious that inadequately staffed prisons do not serve society’s purpose in sending criminals there, which given that almost all inmates will be released into our society at the end of their sentence, has to be rehabilitation, so they can all be happier and do not feel the need to offend again. If prisons are simply warehouses and training academies for a top up supply of more and more skilful criminals then, as servants to society, prisons are pointless.

In fact, as currently run they are positively harmful, both to prisoners and prison officers – as well as society itself.

Happy people will be good.

And we see here the lie of the idea that ‘The tears of the world are a constant quantity, as arch capitalist Pozzo, maintains (as he would) in ‘Waiting for Godot’. By starving services of resources you can quite successfully make absolutely everyone unhappy.

When this deprivation is a conscious government decision the only conclusion to be drawn is that the government holds the people it is supposed to serve in utter contempt.

However misguided, I expect the right in politics to hold this view of prisoners, but not, till now, to show the self same attitude towards prison officers.


  1. Bill Hughes -

    Entirely agree, but the Tories wont put resources into alternatives such as probation or community service schemes and Savid Javid’s intention on using the “full force of the law” is not helpful. It looks like things will get a lot worse unless there is a major change in thinking and policy in this area.

  2. Paul Wright -

    I left the Prison service in 2015 having watched the Tory demolition of a fine and proud service since 2010. Grayling, and others privatised the transport section ( G4S escapes were a disgrace), education Learn Direct ( we know how that finished), appointed Carillion to do the maintenance ( inmates with no showers and toilets understandably kick off), then the chaos knock on of Probation being privatised!
    They got rid of highly trained experienced staff, halved the wages/pensions and employed young people to whom they then cut the training. The service tries hard to provide decency, education and the hope of a future, I dont wonder a lot of staff cant cope. The Tories have a lot to answer for.
    The thing I find most scary about this, is that our media regard the Tories, and their spiteful policies as a centre party position. Grrr…

    1. Peter May -

      Broadly agree. The fine and proud bit is where I have worries. I entirely approve of the fact that the prison service was, indeed, that. But even then they needed more resources in my view, in order to ensure a minimum of reoffending. As most people in prison are already psychologically and sometimes physically damaged, that takes a lot of resources and effort – but we could still ultimately save on both if we funded the prison service properly – as well, as you say, as the probation service which is equally, if not more challenging.
      These people in government are not centrists but they are, I fear proto fascists, and also – simply following Daily Mail simplistic politics. Or – and that is probably most of them – dogmatic incompetents…

  3. Paul Wright -

    In my time -15 years, I can tell you that the system is mental care in custody to a significant degree. A lot of people in prison simply should not be there. At one of my last morning meetings ( daily management team) the stats told us that over 50% of inmates had persistent mental illness issues and that an even higher proportion had an educational age of 11 or less.
    We were told to go and get commercial work for the inmates to contribute to their own cost. At this point I might point out that Prison Industries had been operating for many many years for this very purpose. Needless to say that the Prison Farms were closed down after pressure from the good old NFU in that their profits might be reduced ( remember the Thatcher NFU gang?)
    I cant remember who said it but a letter writer in the guardian remarked that ‘all fundamentalism is insanely bad, and that includes market fundamentalism’. Amen

    Thanks for PP it gives my spirit a lift, keep up the fine work. Charles Adams a special thanks for political insight.

    PS Sean thanks for explaining to me the NI and Irish aspect. Maybe
    you could let someone know in Westminster. LOL

    1. Peter May -

      Thanks for that – agree entirely. And, appallingly, none of the Mainstream Media ever mentions this lack of prison investment, which should really be seen as adult education, in my view.
      Hope at least that your pension was not cut…

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