Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/501/3120

From The Socialist newspaper, 13 September 2007

Overcrowded prisons, overworked staff

BRITAIN'S PRISON officers held their first-ever national strike, mainly on pay, in August. Another major issue that strikers raised was that of conditions. Prisons are still massively overcrowded. According to the National Offender Management Service 80,762 people were in prison in August. Prison officers are also very overstretched, which is bad for prison officers and prisoners alike.

Iain Dalton

The government response has been a limited early release programme (ECL) and a new prison-building programme. Early release of prisoners has been part of Britain's penal system for over 100 years, although the last Tory government drastically curtailed this, adding 1,000 extra prisoners into the system, under Michael Howard's slogan of 'prison works'.

The law allows prisoners to be released on the Home Secretary's power up to six months early. Former Home Secretary John Reid limited it to 18 days, in line with Labour's right-wing law and order policies.

The tabloid press protested nonetheless over prisoners being given 170 cash on leaving prison. But all prisoners get this money, usually 45, to help them survive until they can sign on and start claiming benefits. Prisoners released under ECL are given extra money because they cannot sign on until the days they are released early have passed. They are still technically prisoners.

However, pressure from right-wingers led to this scheme being scrapped. ECL prisoners get only 45, which is supposed to last them until they can start claiming benefits, up to a month. Probation officers' union NAPO calls this a recipe for re-offending.

The government are also building more prisons to provide 9,500 extra places by 2014, although their own estimates show that at the rate prisons are filling, the cells will run out again then.

Moreover, at present up to 400 police cells are holding prisoners who won't fit in prison. This is at a huge cost. New Labour have privatised both police cells and prisons. Increases in prison populations will be another vehicle for this privatisation, making prisons even more like human warehouses.

All the main parties have the same vision for their law and order agenda, of more and more of the population being locked away, similar to the USA. Socialists wholeheartedly disagree with such ideas.

The Prison Officers Association have welcomed the announcements of new prisons. But the prison service, like other state institutions under capitalism, is drastically under-funded.

Striking prison officers interviewed by the socialist stressed that staffing has been drastically cut over the last few years.

Understaffing means that prisoners spend more time locked up in cells rather than doing any activities, frustrating for staff and prisoners alike. This situation will worsen if any further expansion of the prison population through building new prisons goes ahead.

Socialists argue for a radical decrease in the prison population. Many people are locked up due to debt and poverty.

Moreover, sentences handed out by courts have crept up in length and the proportion sent to prison for more than 30 years, despite the crime rate going down over recent years.

To implement this reduction, socialists call for the democratic election of judges, subject to recall.

Moreover, we demand the release of all people imprisoned for fine defaults, ASBO defaults and other trivial offences, with democratically elected bodies to review all other cases.

Socialists do not necessarily oppose building new prisons. But we would argue that any new prisons need to be part of a plan to reduce the jail population, through replacing older prisons with newer ones, which held fewer prisoners but with more facilities and better conditions.

This would free up staff to reduce the prisoner-staff ratio, whilst providing better prison facilities. But these prisons should not be built and run by the private sector with their history of providing poorer quality prisons.

Moreover, socialists demand that privatised prisons are renationalised too.

Such a programme would reduce the overcrowding crisis in prisons. However, to tackle the problem of crime a socialist programme is needed that would give jobs and training for all on a living wage, with housing and other essentials of life under public ownership and control.

Prisons should be geared towards helping offenders overcome any problems such as not being able to read or write.

Combined with the measures above, most prisoners would be able to emerge into a meaningful life on the outside and escape the re-offending trap that sees six in ten of those who are released back inside within two years.

Why not click here to join the Socialist Party, or click here to donate to the Socialist Party.


In The Socialist 13 September 2007:

Fighting Unions Need a New party

Postal workers: "We have the power!"

TUC conference: Standing up to Brown's attacks

Needed: a combative trade union movement


War and terrorism

Iraq: Get the troops out now


Workplace news and events

Tube workers' strike scores victory

Bosses get away with murder


Socialist Party NHS campaign

Nurses strike

Manchester cuts maternity services

Leeds - no more deficits and cuts


APEC summit

APEC summit: Thousands defy police crackdown


Socialist Party news and analysis

Overcrowded prisons, overworked staff

Keeping tabs on the millions?

A life of debt and poverty?


Socialist Party feature

Tory party struggles to recapture territory taken by New Labour


International news and analysis

Impressions of China


Socialist Party review

Robert Blincoe - a life that illuminates an age


 

Facebook   Twitter



Home   |   The Socialist 13 September 2007   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate   |   Bookshop






Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter



Related links:

Prison conditions:

triangle20 years ago: the Strangeways prison riot

Prisons:

triangleGovernment spending cuts deepen prisons' crisis

triangleThe underbelly of prison privatisation

triangleCriminal justice: More privatisation problems

Benefits:

triangleThem & Us

triangleThem & Us

triangleThe myth of 'self-employment'

Privatised:

triangleFurious lobby against service privatisation

triangleStop the NHS sell-off

Reports and campaigns

Reports and campaigns

30/10/14

Cinema

Ritzy cinema bosses back down

29/10/14

Firefighters

Support FBU pension strikes

29/10/14

Jobs

Sports Direct: pressure mounts on 0-hr contracts

29/10/14

Northern Ireland

Bill Webster 1941-2014

29/10/14

Obituary

Ronnie Sookhdeo 1946-2014

29/10/14

Dublin

Dublin TD promotes pro-choice campaign

29/10/14

Wales

Wales colleges: Vote 'yes' in pay strike consultation

29/10/14

Leicester

Leicester holds historic People's Budget talks

29/10/14

Socialism

Donate for socialism!

29/10/14

Lambeth

Ritzy workers threatened with redundancy

29/10/14

Southwark

Southwark Labour demolishes homes

29/10/14

Union

Workplace news in brief

29/10/14

Pay

Fighting for better pay for workers

29/10/14

Sheffield

Sheffield recycling workers to start indefinite action

27/10/14

London

St Mungo's Broadway workers discuss next action

triangleMore Reports and campaigns articles...

triangle30 Oct Boris Pilnyak: 'I want to live, I want to work'

triangle29 Oct Capitalism - 'the new mediocre'

triangle29 Oct Support FBU pension strikes

Lenin speaking at a 1920 demonstration, flanked by Trotsky

triangle29 Oct Lessons from history: 1917 Revolution in Russia

Five million low paid workers are robbed every day

triangle29 Oct Millions robbed by greedy bosses

Kshama Sawant, photo Josh Kelety

triangle29 Oct Building a political alternative in Seattle

triangle27 Oct St Mungo's Broadway workers discuss next action

More ...

triangle8 Nov Socialism 2014: A weekend of discussion and debate


triangle1 Nov Scotland TUSC conference

triangle3 Nov Teesside Socialist Party: 1st World War - a socialist perspective

triangle3 Nov Birmingham Socialist Party: How can we combat the rise of UKIP?

More ...

Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube

Find us on Facebook

Archive

Categories

1-9 

1-9 


Archives:

October 2014

September 2014

August 2014

July 2014

June 2014

May 2014

April 2014

March 2014

February 2014

January 2014

2013

2012

2011

2010

2009

2008

2007

2006

2005

2004

2003

2001

2000

1999

Legal

SP RSS feed RSS

Platform setting: = No platform choice