The Government has confirmed that closure of five more prisons and the partial closures of two more. In their place a proposed “super prison” in London, Wales or the North West will keep 2000 people locked up, with over 3000 staff working there.
The closure of these prisons will not mean increased funding for rehabilitation and non-custodial sentences but will see a new prison with a 2000 inmate capacity built in one area, away from their family and friends to spend their sentences with a shortage of many of the meagre facilities current prisons have. With little access to courses and specialisation of wings for prisoners soon due for release there will be a greater demand for discipline and a “one size fits all policy” as the Government looks to lock up more people and ignore the consequnces.
83,913 people are currently in UK prisons (80,008 men 3,905 women). Over 70% of of prisoners have mental health issues and the suicide rate is 15% higher than in the general population. Many will leave prison with little or no skills to prevent them from returning to often acquisitive crimes. 58% of prisoners on short term sentences, go on to commit further crimes within 12 months of their release. Short term sentences are for non-violent crime and many people spend their whole lives in and out of prisons once they start custodial sentences.
The super prisons in countries like the USA are violent institutions not just because they lock up potentially violent offenders but because guards are armed, attacks and assaults by other prisoners are common and there is little to no support for vulnerable inmates. The larger the institution the more unstable it becomes.
Private companies can profiteer by locking people up and despite the increased drug dependency and lack of staff training found in the privately run HMP Wolds in East Yorkshire bidding for other contracts continues G4S who ran HMP Wolds join Serco who ran HMPAshfield a young offenders institution in highlighting the cuts to provision and oversight found in the private prisons A huge increase in the use of “restraint” against young people in Ashfield has now seen the Government commit to ending its status as a young offenders institution.
The cuts to prisons are not like cuts to welfare, the NHS or employment rights they are not something we should be fighting a defensive battle to protect and then fight to extend. Ultimately we don’t want the prison system as it exists in any form. Locking more people up for increasing numbers of acquisitive crimes is one of the consequences of this crisis we do not need to do the bosses job for them and argue for more places and tougher sentences. Crime blights working class communities but it is members of the working class who languish the longest in prison.
Our movement needs to argue for education, support and increased opportunities for working class kids to not just dissuade them from crime or to make crime unattractive but to fight for a democratic society where people have a say in their lives and equal access to resources.