14 June 2007

The Prisons Crisis - Suicide and Overcrowding

Our prisons are in a mess.

- 43 prisoners in British jails have committed suicide so far this year (that's in 22 weeks, as opposed to 67 for all of 2006); if 43 people died in a train crash, or in a Buncefield-style explosion, we'd hear about it, with pages and pages of colour photos and coverage. It might even push "The Apprentice" final off the front pages ... but since it's affecting a group in society, prisoners, that it's fashionable to bash, there is no outrage.

The linked story in the Guardian on Wednesday goes on to say:

- a record 550 new inmates were "locked out" of prisons in England and Wales last Monday night after a weekend "surge" beyond the officially declared figure of 80,778 forced jails to declare they had run out of space. More than 400 prisoners were held in cells at police stations around England and Wales and a further 120 were in cells at six separate crown and magistrates courts.

- one young offender held on remand in Feltham youth jail in west London went to court and found himself moved between Ashfield in Derbyshire and Huntercombe in Oxfordshire before a space could be found for him again in Feltham.

We need to find more solutions that are centred on preventing people getting to prison in the first place (community sentencing, restorative justice), we need to gradually release about 20 000 inmates, and make sure that the remaining prisoners aren't in such overcrowded conditions.

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