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:

triangleSixth form students grill Grayling

triangleGovernment spending cuts deepen prisons' crisis

triangleThe underbelly of prison privatisation

triangleCriminal justice: More privatisation problems

Benefits:

triangleEnd the housing crisis

triangleYouth unemployment: anxiety and anger

triangleChesterfield Socialist Party: Life in 'benefits Britain'

Privatised:

triangleFurious lobby against service privatisation

triangleStop the NHS sell-off

Reports and campaigns

Reports and campaigns

30/1/15

Lancashire

Fracking in trouble, from Lancashire to Lanarkshire!

30/1/15

Woolwich

Woolwich Ferry workers force boss's climbdown

28/1/15

Housing

End the housing crisis

28/1/15

NHS

Strike called off in face of inadequate offer

28/1/15

Northern Ireland

NI Water workers' victory

28/1/15

Carlisle

Burns' Night a blazing success

28/1/15

Leicester

Leicester marches for free education

28/1/15

Carlisle

Lib-Lab political bung scandal

28/1/15

The Socialist

Extra, extra! Socialist needs new sales!

28/1/15

Usdaw

Usdaw elections: 'We need a winning, fighting union'

28/1/15

RMT

RMT forces DLR bosses back

28/1/15

NHS

Workplace news in brief

28/1/15

Appeal

Election Appeal 2015

27/1/15

Warrington

Councillor ends long-term suspension from Labour

26/1/15

Socialist

Socialists joining celebrations at Greek embassy

triangleMore Reports and campaigns articles...

Outside the Lancashire County Council buildings in Preston, 28 Jan 2015, photo by Dave Beale

triangle30 Jan Fracking in trouble, from Lancashire to Lanarkshire!

Social housing not social cleansing! photo Paul Mattsson

triangle28 Jan End the housing crisis

triangle28 Jan Strike called off in face of inadequate offer

A Greek worker demonstrating in Thessaloniki, photo Ged Travers

triangle28 Jan Syriza victory shows austerity elite can be beaten

Green Party leader Natalie Bennett, photo Paul Mattsson

triangle28 Jan Is the Green Party the answer?

triangle28 Jan Government welfare cuts: No to sanctions!

triangle27 Jan Syriza comes to power, as old ruling parties collapse

More ...

triangle31 Jan London: March for Homes

triangle2 Feb Chesterfield Socialist Party: Europe today - a turbulent period in history

triangle2 Feb Tower Hamlets Socialist Party: Greek workers fighting back against austerity

triangle2 Feb Socialist Party Scotland - Glasgow: Greece revolts against austerity

More ...

Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube

Find us on Facebook

Archive

Categories

1-9 

1-9 


Archives:

January 2015

2014

2013

2012

2011

2010

2009

2008

2007

2006

2005

2004

2003

2002

2001

2000

1999

Legal

SP RSS feed RSS

Platform setting: = No platform choice