Prison Reform – Part Four


I’ll start this section by telling a story of an event that has recently taken place.

A drug treatment manager working with prisoners in a U.K. Prison received a telephone call from a Border Immigration Service Officer with the unusual request to provided two weeks of methadone prescriptions for a prisoner who had completed his sentence and was being extradited back to his home country Romania.

The Officer explained that the man did not want to be deported and that the Romanian authorities would not provided treatment.

The U.K. Prison Manager refused for very good reasons, the first being that two weeks worth of prescriptions in itself is a large dose of methadone and secondly for the simple and what should have occurred to the Immigration department that the man if he took a non-lethal overdose would end up being treated by the NHS and as a “free” man would have the opportunity to abscond.

And why wouldn’t he – if I didn’t want to be deported it is what I and many others would do.

Which brings me to the subject of this article.

At the current time there are just under 10,000 Foreign National prisoners in custody costing the tax payer in monetary terms over £380m a year.

But it isn’t the financial cost that should be of concern but the fact that on completion of their sentence – which incidentally I have no problem with the reality that having committed crimes in the UK they should serve their time here – far too many Foreign National prisoners are not deported.

If we take the example of the story that I started this article with I have previously written about the nonsense of the Government policy of enabling prisoners to continue to maintain a drug dependency rather than what was a previous policy of working to ensure prisoners are “drug free” on release from custody.

What I and many who have worked or are currently working within the prison system are frustrated by is why the UK Government immigration department is so demonstrably incompetent when it comes to processing prisoners.

I have never been able to get a clear answer to the reasonable question – or at least I think so – of why isn’t the extradition process of Foreign National prisoners started immediately they are sentenced into custody?

Irrespective of the length of the sentence surely it makes sense to initiate extradition procedures and hold the individual in custody at a holding centre until the process is completed and they are extradited.

It is utter nonsense to release them and ask them to report to a police station when anyone with any common sense will know that the chances of them not disappearing and becoming lost into the society is almost zero.

Where – and this is one of the major issues – they almost inevitably because they do not have the correct documentation go on to commit further crimes resulting in more victims.

It seems bizarre to me that the immigration authorities appear to be keener on deporting people and families including children who are simply trying to build themselves a better and more secure life whilst dragging their feet on deporting those who have committed crimes serious enough for them to receive a custodial sentence.

Perhaps one solution is to have an immigration officers appointed permanently to work in every prison with responsibility to ensure that the extradition process is initiated and in place so that prisoner are immediately deported on release.

In the next of this series of blogs I will address the issue of how the finite resources available to prisons such as in education should be focussed on those prisoners who on release are entitled to remain in the United Kingdom.