Here we go again the media making a big thing out of open prison absconds. This tine it’ Sudbury and Kirkham. So why don’t that same media try, just occasionally, to writ something positive about such establishments. I’ve served sentences in Sudbury and I can tell you from experience that there are a goodly number of very positive things that could be reported, both within the prison itself and about what the inmates through the prison do to serve and help in the community.
You can be absolutely sure that no one absconds for the sake of it. There is always a reason. It may be something within the prison e.g drugs debts or pressures outside e.g family or other problems. One aspect of the open prison is that by its very nature there are far less welfare and supports services as there are in a closed establishment. Perhaps addressing that might reduce the number of absconds.
It could also be noted that the actual number of absconds is only a fraction of one per cent of the open prison population and whilst one abscond is too many our illustrious media really should get things in proportion.
It is reported in today’s press that Andy Coulson has announced thathe will spend his time inside teaching inmates to read and write.
What arrogance, does he not realise he is also an inmate, no better nor worse than any of the others and he hasn’t been sent to prison for him to decide what he will and won’t do. The prison authorities will make those decisions, that is what prison is aboutPerhaps instead of making these kind of arrogant assertions it would be better if he proferred an apology to those who have suffered as a result of his activities.
I’m sure that within the prison system there must be a number of inmates who have suffered from the former News of the World’s biassed reactionary reportage, perhaps Coulson should be thinking how to placate those guys.
The first fact which has to be a priority when considering the future of the penal system is
just that, the whole system must be studied in its entirety before any truly radical decisions can be taken. The system as it is today is very much, and has been for many years, a short term solution to an ever worseing long term problem. So many knee jerk reactions have been put in place to address various crises that there is not now, nor has there been since Victorian times, any real generic policies and this fails society because whilst the short term solutions might appear to address the various issues they are merely sweeping the problem under the carpet.
It is a fact that the penal system is very much a cinderella in funding circles, perhaps uderstandably, but in terms of pure economics surely it is better to spend more at the outset than to cover a problem up on;ly allowing it to emerge at a later date. Surely it is better to address an offender’s behaviour at the outset rather than cover it up resulting in repeat ofending.
One of the problems of course is that no one thinks to look at an individual offenders behaviourand circumatances prior to their offending. No attempt is made to look at the individual, they system merely pigeon holes those who come into conflict in the most generalistic way possible.
No attempt is made to classify prisoners for anything other than security.
Someone, somewhere must have a responsibility to decide why an offender is to be dealt with. Is it to punish, to rehabilitate, to deter, to protect society. On entry to the penal system that has to be the first decision made.
Can you imagine the result if hospitals performed in the same way. Everyone admitted is simply a patient with no triage, no classifiaction of the medical problem, every patient treated in exactly the same way – unthinkable but that is just what happens when offenders come into contact with the penal system.
In the paper I am now working on I hope to illustrate how wrong and near sighted this approach is and suggest radical ways in which things can change.
Because I am an ex con I don’t suppose for one minute that anyone will listen such is the prejudice in society generally but I will say it nevertheless if only to ‘get it off my chest’