Tag Archives: prisons

Shameful! Half of prisoners are abandoned on release

Recent reports based on the Freedom of Information request made by Liberal Democrats highlight the shocking abandonment of prisoners upon release. This is when they are most vulnerable and in need of help to transition into a settled place in society.

Lib Dem Home Affairs Spokesperson Ed Davey MP revealed that more than 100,000 prisoners across England and Wales left prison for “unsettled” or “unknown” accommodation in the last three years, almost half of the 220,411 prisoners released in that period. A full table of figures for individual prisons can be found 

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The aging prison population

 

With so much focus being placed on young offenders and the poverty traps that keep them locked in a cycle of crime, little attention has been given to an ever increasing section of the national prison population. In England and Wales, male offenders aged 50 or above are the fastest growing group in prison, rising by 74% in the past decade to close to 10,000 (that’s 11% of the total prison population), while since 1990 the over-60s population has increasing eight-fold.

A succession of governments, wanting to appear ‘tough on crime’, have led to an increased pressure on the judicial system to hand out an increasing number of longer-term sentences. A rapidly aging long-term prison population now suffers from an accelerated aging process due to a combination of the health risks associated with criminal lifestyles and the psychological strains of prison life, which has led to more and more pressure being placed on correctional services that are now unable to cope with the changing nature of prison care for many inmates.

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Lib Dems condemn Gove’s prison reforms

So the Government thinks the solution to the crisis in our prisons is to give governors more power rather than have a more strategic sense of what the prison system is for and how best to lessen re-offending and properly rehabilitate offenders.

Liberal Democrat peer Jonathan Marks is unimpressed with the Government’s plans. He said:

It is a scary thought that the grand architect who oversaw the dismantling of the school system as we knew it is now getting his hands all over the nation’s prisons.

It is no secret that our prison system is in crisis. We lock up far too many people each year with inadequate facilities and staffing.

These reforms might tackle the problems at the surface but without root and branch reform of our criminal justice system the whole process will be built to fail.

The academy model for schools is falling apart as we speak so why the Government feels that this template is appropriate for prisons is incomprehensible.

Instead we should be focusing on ensuring that our criminal justice system is centred on rehabilitation and diverting people away from prisons wherever possible rather than this continued obsession with locking them up.

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Huhne / Pryce: I just don’t see how ‘prison works’ for anyone here

His crime was speeding then lying (and lying some more). Her crime was lying and self-immolating revenge. Last night they spent their first night in prison.

Few people will spare much sympathy for either Chris Huhne or Vicky Pryce. They are, as Mr Justice Sweeney said yesterday when sentencing the pair to eight months each, the architects of their own downfall. Though I also think it would take a particularly stony heart not to look at the ashen-faced photos of them, besieged by a mob-handed press as their humiliation is played out in real-time in the full glare of publicity, and …

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Opinion: The future of Indeterminate Sentences – and why liberals should support them

The number of prisoners serving indeterminate sentences has rocketed since the 2003 Criminal Justice Act introduced the IPP (Indeterminate Sentence for Public Protection). Within four years of its introduction, over 5,000 such sentences had been passed despite original government projections of just a few hundred.

To the horror of many liberals less than 2% of such prisoners have ever acheived parole and hardly any gained release at expiry of their sentence tariff. Most MPs will be familar with cases of constituents where IPP prisoners have served well in excess of their tariff and yet appear to have little prospect of release.

As a result many liberals will applaud the government announcement this week that the IPP sentence is to be replaced by a regime of Determinate Sentences and a “two strike” automatic life sentence reserved for the most serious offences.

At first sight this appears to be a victory for justice and a step towards reducing prison numbers. But the reality is less straightforward, and although the IPP has flaws these can be reformed — and if the sentence is made fit for purpose it has many advantages over the proposed reforms.

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Labour prisons expert attacks party for “shameful” stance on penal reform

Frances Crook, a Labour member and Director of the Howard League for Penal reform, has launched a stinging attack on the Labour Party’s approach to penal reform calling recent moves by Shadow Lord Chancellor and Justice Secretary Sadiq Khan “shameful”.

Writing on the Howard League’s website, Frances Crook said,

I was so angry with the Labour Party I found it hard to put into words. For the record I am a Labour Party member and was a Labour Party councillor and I have been a huge admirer of Sadiq Khan, a man who has up until recently had an exceptional record

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Youth Justice: the prison governor’s view

One of the most powerful pieces of learning for me during 34 years of being in and out of custodial establishments is the capacity of their residents to respond to opportunities; to being appreciated and congratulated for work well done; to being respected for doing something worthwhile. It is the realisation that this might have been their first experience of any of this that initially takes the breath away, and always disturbs. Although, therefore, Governors have to concern themselves with secure and safe custody and, yes, maximising resources to provide opportunities for offenders in their custody, and doing …

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Opinion: Green Paper on Crime – “Breaking the Cycle”

The government published the Green Paper on reforming the Criminal Justice System “Breaking the Cycle” in November with most news coverage centring on proposals for “payment by results” and putting physical work apparently at the centre of prison life. However, behind the headlines this is in many ways the most thoughtful government document on crime in years, a clear move away from “Prison Works” and a return to increased professional discretion as opposed to Whitehall dictats.

The paper is not without its problems. The headline of prisoners working a forty hour week is totally unrealistic given current prison structures, issues …

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Opinion: good and bad reasons for backing Ken

Ken Clarke is coming under pressure from the Red Tops about his plans for sentence reform. According to Conservative Home, even David Cameron is getting cold feet. But Liberal Democrats, it is assumed, are bound to be backing Ken.

This might be thought a given as Liberals are, from the point of view of the media, supposed to have a benign, Panglossian view of human nature which unkind souls might call unrealistic or wet.

Wrong on both counts!

I have long thought the only good moral reason for punishing someone is that they deserve it and that the state is …

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Opinion: which is the biggest disgrace – the marriages or the sentence?

St Leonards on Sea has had its share of the national news recently – Banksy has been to visit and has left his moniker on our seafront; and in the last few days we have had a local vicar sentenced to four years in prison for his part in a sham weddings scam which has broken immigration law and also, it seems, a Marriage Act from the 1940s.

In case you missed it, the Independent has covered the case of Revd Alex Brown in detail. It transpires that no-one has been able to identify the motive of this errant …

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Lord Mike German’s maiden speech

In recent weeks, LDV has been bringing its readers copies of our new MPs’ first words in the House of Commons, so that we can read what is being said and respond. You can find all of the speeches in this category with this link. Alert LDV reader and bureaucratic blogger Mark Valladares, himself a husband to a Lib Dem Peer, our party’s president Ros Scott, has drawn to our attention that we have more new parliamentarians in the Other Place, who are also making maiden speeches. Earlier today we brought you the words of Baroness

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Baroness Meral Hussein-Ece’s maiden speech

In recent weeks, LDV has been bringing its readers copies of our new MPs’ first words in the House of Commons, so that we can read what is being said and respond. You can find all of the speeches in this category with this link. Alert LDV reader and bureaucratic blogger Mark Valladares, himself a husband to a Lib Dem Peer, our party’s president Ros Scott, has drawn to our attention that we have more new parliamentarians in the Other Place, who are also making maiden speeches. So today, Baroness Hussein-Ece’s words are reproduced below.

Baroness Hussein-Ece: My …

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LibLink: Richard Grayson – Lib Dems must dare to be different over prisoners’ voting rights

Over at The Guardian, Richard Grayson, a Lib Dem parliamentary candidate and former director of policy for the party, argues that the Council of Europe ruling against the UK ban on prisoners voting offers the Lib Dems a chance to seize the initiative. Here’s an excerpt:

While Liberal Democrats have consistently made it clear that they understand the need to punish crimes (despite the way the party has been characterised as “soft on crime” by both Labour and the Conservatives), the party is generally most interested in stopping crime in the first place. One way to do that is to transform

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David Howarth writes … Now is the time to reform our penal policy

Last month the Howard League for Penal Reform launched its Take Action 2010 campaign, with the general election in its sights. The campaign reflects a growing consensus among experts and campaign groups that penal policy has reached a crisis point.

The Howard League’s campaign covers four policy areas – investment in the community not prison, ending short prison terms, justice for children, and creating a scheme of real work inside existing prisons. All four of these themes echo Liberal Democrat thinking and I very much welcome the campaign.

Billions of pounds are spent on maintaining our prisons and …

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LibLink: Vince Cable – We pay millions to lock up the wrong people

Over at the Mail, Lib Dem deputy leader Vince Cable looks at four cases brought to his constituency advice surgey, and examines the very human stories behind each “to question the role played by prison in dealing with the individuals concerned.” Here’s the first story:

An elderly lady came to see me about her grandson. Let me call him Mr A. He is serving a sentence for GBH.

He had drug problems and had gone into a pub, got into an argument with a barman and in the fight that followed pulled out a knife, causing injury. As I told his grandmother,

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LibLink: Chris Huhne – Tough on crime? Jail’s not the answer

Over at The Guardian’s Comment Is Free website, Lib Dem shadow home secretary Chris Huhne argues tht locking up more people is a populist ploy that doesn’t cut crime. Instead, he says, we should focus on rigorous community sentences instead. Here’s an excerpt:

It should be a given that important matters of public policy are based on evidence and research, rather than political whim. Why, then, is the field of criminal justice uniquely and scandalously divorced from this obvious rule? … Both continue to try to frighten the public into the arms of their party. It is this politics of

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The Independent View: Calling time on National Justice

Shema Begum works at the Local Government Information Unit, which has just published a report entitled Primary Justice. This report proposes devolving control of power and funding for specific parts of the criminal justice system to upper tier local authorities. Shema explains more here.

Our centralised prison system may keep the public safe while offenders are inside, but it fails to equip ex offenders to lead law abiding lives once they are released. We need a new localised approach. This is the verdict of a three month inquiry conducted by the Local Government Information Unit in cooperation with the All Party Parliamentary Local Government Group.

During this inquiry sixty local authorities submitted written evidence and high profile commentators such as Charles Clarke (former Home Secretary), Lord Ramsbotham (Former Chief Inspector of Prisons) and Louise Casey (Government Neighbourhood Crime and Justice Adviser) were grilled by a panel of MPs and academics. Their recommendations are detailed in a report launched today entitled Primary Justice.

We all know the facts. There are currently 82,000 people in prison, the second highest incarceration rate across Western Europe, and 10% above its stated capacity. Despite overcrowded prison conditions most offenders return to prison within two years of their release. A typical offender leaves prison with a £46 allowance to support themselves for a fortnight. With no job, and often no home or loved ones to return to, it is easy to understand why some may find it difficult to become law abiding citizens.

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£853 a night – Lib Dems reveal true cost cost of locking up prisoners in police cells

The BBC reports:

The cost of housing prison inmates in police cells is double the amount previously thought, the Lib Dems claim. The Ministry of Justice says it costs £385 a night to detain an inmate in a police station when prisons are full. But the Lib Dems say the true cost of ‘Operation Safeguard’ is £853 a night – a figure disputed by the government.

The article quotes Lib Dem justice spokesperson Paul Holmes:

For this amount of money, you could stay in the Ritz. … The government’s incompetence in managing our prison system is staggering and has left the

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David Howarth MP writes… My top priorities as Lib Dem shadow secretary of state for justice

The main responsibilities of the Ministry of Justice are the criminal justice system, including prisons and probation, and constitutional reform. Crime has not been seen as a political strength for us in the past, but I believe that it could be, because we have very distinctive things to say. Constitutional reform is one of our traditional strengths, but the task there is to make it relevant to current politics.

There is a crisis in the criminal justice system of staggering proportions. The prison population is at a record high, and is eating up £ billions in public expenditure. 70% of …

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Recent Comments

  • User AvatarKatharine Pindar 16th Dec - 1:45am
    Sorry, I mean of course 'a Liberal ' in his youth, he wasn't psychic too!
  • User AvatarKatharine Pindar 16th Dec - 1:41am
    Well, Peter, the absurdity was just not taken account of, it seems. Yet a shrewd friend of mine, a Lib Dem in his youth and...
  • User Avatarfrankie 15th Dec - 11:55pm
    But David I seem to remember you were a fan of Bevan's quote about rats. That was a man who through bitter experience knew what...
  • User AvatarDavid Becket 15th Dec - 10:52pm
    @ Martin Typo, not intended
  • User AvatarDavid Raw 15th Dec - 8:35pm
    I wish he was !!
  • User AvatarRichard Underhill 15th Dec - 8:26pm
    The cinema site in Tunbridge Wells has been cleared and covered with broken bricks. A new cinema cannot legally be built precisely where the previous...