Showing posts with label prison. Show all posts
Showing posts with label prison. Show all posts

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Women in Prison

A report recommends that Scotland's only all-female jail should be demolished to make way for specialist units. Last week, the Commission on Women Offenders, chaired by former Lord Advocate Dame Elish Angiolini, published the findings of an eight-month review on women in the country's criminal justice system. It said Cornton Vale prison, near Stirling, should be replaced with a smaller specialist prison for long-term and high-risk prisoners, as well as regional units to hold short-term and remand prisoners. Her comments were echoed by Brigadier Hugh Monro, Chief Inspector of Prisons in Scotland, who carried out his third inspection of the jail in two-and-a-half years. He said inmates suffering from complex mental health issues should be moved into specialist care facilities. Women have been held in "silent cells" without natural light or ventilation where the bed is just a mattress on concrete.

Brigadier Monro said: "We need some signposts nationally about where such people should be held. Either we up our game for male and female prisoners when dealing with mental health issues or we need to look at alternative facilities not within the prison system."

Juliet Lyon
, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said:"It is intolerable that some of most vulnerable women in Scotland should be held in one of its bleakest, most outdated and under-staffed institution."

The number of women in prison has more than doubled over the last decade, although 75% of custodial sentences imposed on females are for six months or less.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Jailhouse Blues

Sometimes Socialists feel for our political rivals . Yes , we really do . We know they know that their political programme and policies are worthless yet they are unable to refute them .
One such politician is Mark Oaten one-time Liberal Democrats' home affairs spokesman .

The Winchester MP desperately wanted to say that all prisons should be demolished and replaced with education and training centres, mental health facilities and drug rehabilitation units. But his Lib Dem colleagues would never allow him to air this radical view in public.

"It was clear to me that prison wasn't working," says Mr Oaten. "But I would have been crucified as a front line politician for saying this in public and the party would have tumbled in the opinion polls."

Since he is no longer seeking re-election he is now able to disclose his real views on political and social matters .

"Prison is not fit for purpose and it's beyond reform. We need to abolish it and replace it with more workable alternatives," he tells BBC Radio 4

The Winchester MP identifies mental health problems, drug addiction and illiteracy as three of the main reasons for criminal behaviour. According to Mr Oaten 72% of prisoners have mental health problems. These people, he argues, should be held in secure therapeutic facilities where they would undergo treatment. Mr Oaten believes offenders detained in mental health facilities should only be released when they are no longer considered a threat to society.
Mr Oaten envisages the drug treatment facilities he proposes attracting plenty of offenders, claiming that currently around 50% of all prisoners have a drug problem.
For those identified as committing crime because of their lack of employability, Mr Oaten would like the government to establish a network of secure education and training centres.
He says: "Thirty seven per cent of prisoners are functionally illiterate. They should be in classrooms learning to read and write or in training and getting skills." Those sentenced to education and training would be released upon successful completion of their course.

This Liberal Democrat may believe he is on to something but we would suggest that he has one big huge glaring omission in his analysis - Capitalism and its alienating deprivation of ownership and control of everyday life that contributes to the crime situation and the anti-social behaviour of many of our fellow workers . He is as it turns out just another reformer seeking palliatives and cures for problems that are inherent within the capitalist system and which cannot be removed by good intentions . A jail will be a jail , prison walls or not , and as the rest of the article indicates , there is more to solving crime than Mark Oaten's penal reforms .

"Law is nothing but a class instrument – a weapon of the capitalist State for its own preservation. It is necessary to the capitalist State because the ruling class in capitalism have laid thieves’ hands upon the means of life... However much he may be made to fear the Law, the proletarian will no longer respect it. He will come to regard it in its true light, as the enemy, not the friend, of the working class; as the necessary adjunct of class rule, by means of which alone the producers of all wealth can be robbed and murdered and debauched, with some sort of one-sided orderliness, by a class of idle, drunken parasites, steeped to the neck in moral turpitude, sunk to the eye-brows in abomination which even the hardened Law dares find no name for. That superstitious awe which, quite apart from the fear of policeman and prison surrounds the Majesty of the Law, will dissipate, and no longer will the worker "blush for shame" at being caught in the act of law-breaking. (Socialist Standard, July 1911)

And as Eugene Debs once remarked :-

While there is a lower class, I am in it, while there is a criminal element, I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Freedom Is Jail

Just to reinforce the previous blog's comment that capitalism distorts all relationships a report comes out of Europe that finds many women in Scotland are choosing to go into prison - and stay there longer - because their lives on the outside are so chaotic .
In some cases, the problems faced by women on the outside were so enormous they considered prison as a refuge.

"There is evidence that some of these women are choosing to go to prison," said Dr Shewan of Glasgow Caledonian University .

It indicates some women choose to go to prison to escape abusive partners; others to try to stabilise spiralling debts and drug addiction. Also reveals that women had committed crimes (including fire-raising) within prison so as to actually avoid release .

Scotland has one of the fastest-growing female prisoner populations in Europe, despite repeated promises from ministers to reduce the problem. In the past decade, it has more than doubled. Last year, it peaked, with 365 women behind bars. On the same day in 2002, there were 273 women in jail.

The study suggests that sentencers sometimes send women to prison to receive help not available in the community.

Community services are so unable to meet the basic needs of women offenders with drug problems, and so many other problems, that incarceration becomes an easier option, according to the report.

"Could this be one of the underlying reasons why the female prison population in Scotland has been (increasing), and continues to increase?"
In his latest report on Cornton Vale, Scotland's only women's prison, Dr Andrew McClellan, the chief inspector of prisons, concluded that, of the inmates, 98% had drug addiction problems, 80% had mental health problems and 75% had a history of abuse and very poor physical health.
Mental health and addiction problems characterise these women, and many experts claim the experience of prison is likely to increase their drug-taking and offending. Many of them are still being imprisoned for minor offences. Seven out of 10 prison sentences passed on women are for six months or less. In 2004-5, more than 400 women were sent to prison for failing to pay a fine.
"We are locking up increasing numbers of increasingly damaged women," Dr McLellan said "It is desperately sad. You see it not just in their eyes but on their arms, which are deeply scarred from a long history of self-harming."

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Prison Blues

In a recent Scotsman article it is estimated that the Scottish prison population will reach American-type proportions . Prof Coyle, head of prison studies at Kings College in London, said Britain was "ten to 15 years behind the US", which he said was already using prisons as a quasi-welfare state. America has a prisoner rate of 738 per 100,000 head of population, nearly six times more than Scotland's rate of 139 per 100,000.

Presently standing at around 7,200 people prison service estimates that the number could hit 10,000 within the next decade but Professor Andrew Coyle, a former governor of Peterhead and Shotts prisons, yesterday said that if courts keep sending mentally ill people, along with offenders whose crimes arise from drug and alcohol addictions, to prison, Scotland could end up with a prison population as high as 35,000.

He notes that seven out of ten prisoners in Scotland have mental health problems, with seven per cent displaying "psychotic elements" and eighty per cent suffering drug addiction problems .
Prof Coyle said that, instead of being used as a "punishment of last resort" for serious criminals, prisons were increasingly being forced to cope with mentally ill people and other problematic cases, such as drug addicts, who should be diverted into the health service rather than the criminal justice system.

Prof Coyle said a lack of adequate facilities for people with mental health problems was fuelling the growth in the prison population.

"I'm talking about the 'too difficult' groups, the mentally disturbed, the drug addicts. People with these health issues are not being given the help they need through the health system. They then appear in the 'system' for committing crimes. That system simply isn't equipped for dealing with people with health and addiction problems."
And what has Scotland got to look forward to if it follows the American incarceration trend .

The USA has the most prisoners in the world .

A U.S. Justice Department report released on November 30 showed that a record 7 million people -- or one in every 32 American adults -- were behind bars, on probation or on parole at the end of last year. Of the total, 2.2 million were in prison or jail.

China ranks second with 1.5 million prisoners

Followed by Russia with 870,000.

The United States has 5 percent of the world's population and 25 percent of the world's incarcerated population

Ryan King, a policy analyst at The Sentencing Project, a group advocating sentencing reform, said the United States has a more punitive criminal justice system than other countries. King said various social programs, including those dealing with education, poverty, urban development, health care and child care, have failed.

"There are a number of social programs we have failed to deliver. There are systemic failures going on . A lot of these people then end up in the criminal justice system."
The easy fix of "lock em up and throw away the keys" isn't working . And the remedy of patching up and reforming the system don't change things either .

There requires to be a more profound and revolutionary approach to the causes of crime and all the many other social ills . Socialists cannot see prisons simply as the dumping grounds for the discarded and the despised .

Eugene Debs once said :-
" Your Honor, years ago I recognized my kinship with all living beings, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on earth. I said then, and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it, and while there is a criminal element I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free. "