There are a number of changes – some may say they are radical – that I believe would not only improve the prison regimes and decrease re-offending but would also allow the reallocation of funding and resources to the prevention agenda.
I will address them in a future article on this very important issue.
Now I don’t suppose anyone could accuse me of being a “tree hugging care bear” when it comes to the criminal justice system but if prisons are to work surely they have to reflect the need of society – namely – to prevent offenders re-offending.
However if prisons are to work as part of a fair criminal justice system then crimes committed by prisoners whilst in custody should also be treated in the same way as they would be in society outside of prison.
One example of which I am talking is wilful criminal damage.
There is an enormous frustration amongst the already hard pressed short staffed prison staff – due to the cuts made by successive Governments of all political persuasions – that prisoners who wilfully wreck and cause thousands of pounds of damage to the prison cells allocated to them do not get suitably punished.
In reality what happens is the prisoner is moved from the now uninhabitable cell into another which they then proceed to trash and whilst they are subjected to “internal prison sanctions” they don’t face the full weight of the law.
In the meantime across the whole of the prison estate there is at any one time between 50 and 100 cells out of action.
I believe it is time to be serious about this issue and would suggest the following,
On the first occasion of wilfully damaging a cell –
If the prisoner responsible is serving a sentence that allows them to be released on licence after serving half of their sentence then the release should be rescinded and the prisoner required to spend the whole of their sentence in custody.
If the prisoner is serving a sentence that is not subject to release on licence then their sentence should be extended by 6 months for every cell that they wilfully damage causing it to be out of action.
Sentences should run consecutively and not as is the current practice of them being run concurrently.
My issue with concurrent sentencing is that prisoners serving concurrent sentences will serve those prison terms together which effectively means the the shorter of the sentences – or if they are terms of the same duration – are meaningless.
Crimes committed when in custody are not given the same weight as those committed outside of prison.
No greater example of this is when an assault is carried out against a member of the prison staff or other people who are working in the system.
It is time to treat all assaults – and I do mean ALL assaults whether physical or by means of what is called “potting” (the throwing of urine and faeces at staff) – should be taken to court and face a minimum of three years in custody to run consecutively with their current sentence.
Would society or the Crown Prosecution Service accept assaults against police in the same casual manner they accept assaults against those who work in prisons?
To be fair however the Prison Service authorities don’t pursue prosecutions as rigorously as they should.
Finally for this section of my thoughts on the HMPS I believe that the automatic right for prisoners on sentences that allow them to be released on licence having served half of their sentence should be amended.
Prisoners serving category of sentence should only be allowed release on licence providing they have NO breaches of the custodial rules against them.
In part three of my thoughts on Prisons Reforms I’ll talk about the problems and failures associated with those who are serving their first custodial sentence, those who are ex-armed services and those who are termed Foreign National prisoners.