This is something that I wrote in jail, a few years ago. However, reading it brought back a few memories and realistically I wanted to see how much has really changed, in the many years that have past and since I wrote this up… The truth of the matter is prison officers have to concentrate on containment and warehousing of prisoners today. The sad thing is, that they can do but, little else. Jails have become conveyor belts, carrying the same repeat offenders, in and out of our over-crowded prisons. While at the same time costing the tax-payer, an absolute fortune. ‘Locked Up Potential’ a strategy for reforming prisoners. If I remember rightly, the report sets out an ambitious agenda for much needed reform, recognising that there were no quick fixtures, or instant solutions to the two interrelated crisis within the prison system, overcrowding & reoffending. Until the late-1990s, rehabilitation was a key part of the UK prison policy. Prisoners were encouraged to develop occupational skills and to resolve psychological problems–such as substance abuse or aggression, enhanced thinking skills and victim awareness courses. Those that refused to take part in these and other courses would be detrimental to their rerelease and would interfere with their reintegration back into society.
Indeed, many inmates received court sentences that mandated treatment for such problems as drugs & alcohol. Since then, however, rehabilitation has taken a back seat to a “get tough on crime”. All well and good but, the current situation in our judicial system does not allow this approach to ever be implemented, not properly. The approach has created explosive growth in the prison population, while having at most, a modest effect on crime rates. This is coupled with the staff cuts and over-crowding within our prisons now. During the 80s and early 90s a prison officers job was a highly respected position. Today, no decent morally British industrial human being would ever take this position. They would be frightened, abused, humiliated, spat at, and violently attacked, why would they? As a result, the UK now has more than 90,000 people in prisons. I would hate to hazard a guess at how many are on licence. That was without the implementation of 1 day in prison, warrants 12 months on licence. Furthermore, a private sector to deal with this nonsense. Why and who is actually inventing in this mess. How are they getting away with it? To me it’s like people getting paid under false pretences. More importantly why is the MOJ & the Prisons Minister not dealing with this more obvious and important matter within our prison system. Furthermore, it is believable to think that, in Britain today, we have a higher percentage of the population that’s is involved in the criminal justice system, than in most other European countries.
Many inmates have serious mental illnesses. Starting in the late 1960s and 1970s, new psychotropic drugs and the famous times of ”Margaret Thatcher’ and the conservative government at the time, dramatically reduced the number of people in government run mental hospitals. But in the 1980/90s, many of the mentally ill who had left mental institutions in the previous two decades began entering the criminal justice system. This was in their thousands today, somewhere between 60/70% of people in prison are mentally ill, “Prisons have really become, in many ways, the ”de facto” mental health hospitals,”. However, prisons weren’t built to deal with mentally ill people; they were built to deal with criminals doing time and more importantly to protect the public.
The plight of the mentally ill in prisons was virtually ignored for many years, but in the past couple of years some prison systems have realized, that sometimes with prodding from the courts–that providing mental health care is a necessity, not a luxury. In many prison systems, psychologists are the primary mental health care providers, with psychiatrists contracted on a part-time basis. Psychologists provide services ranging from screening new inmates for mental illness to providing group therapy and crisis counselling. They also provide rehabilitative services that are useful even for prisoners without serious mental illnesses, For example, a psychologist might develop special programs, such as Cognitive Behavioural Courses for various reasons, substance abusers anxiety, etc, or help prisoners prepare for the transition back into society/community. However, they often struggle to implement such programs while keeping up with their regular prison caseloads. “They’re focused so much on the basic mental health services that, there’s not enough time or emphasis to devote to rehabilitative services”. Furthermore, part of the problem is limited resources, there simply aren’t enough mental health professionals in most prisons. “Many psychologists in the criminal justice system have enormous caseloads; they’re struggling not to be overwhelmed by the tide.” Another constraint is the basic philosophical difference between psychology, which is rehabilitative at heart, and prison regimes, which is currently punishment-oriented/based. Moreover, currently there’s such a focus on punishment–most criminal justice prison regimes are punitive in nature–that it’s hard to develop effective rehabilitative programs,”. Many prisoners in ‘Category B’ prisons, experience extremely high levels of anxiety and other negative emotions. This is coupled with a regime that is oppressed, suppressed and down right negative. When released–often without any “decompression” period in lower-security facilities–they have only a few, or none of the social or professional trade skills or even academic skills necessary to succeed in the outside world. (This is a whole new post) Nonetheless, facilities have become increasingly common over the past five to ten years. “This is what prison systems do under emergency circumstances–they move to punitive social control mechanisms,” (Lock down for days on end) “But mostly, it’s a very short-term solution and one that does do more long-term damage, both to the system and to the individuals than it solves.” Knee jerk reaction, to even the smallest of incidents. This not only adds to the misery to the day for prisoners but, it is also another piece of dynamite added to the already explosive atmosphere that is simmering just below the surface. You mark my words, a big bang is in the post.