The Prison Estate is needed in any society that has laws & a justice system. Prison protects the public by removing those who are a danger to society and as a reasonable woman, I will not argue otherwise. Any offence committed should be punished & dealt with by a justice system that is fair and dispassionate from the reasons why an offence has been committed.
The current prison crisis, (and there is one, Mr Grayling, not quite sure how long the sand will keep your ears warm) has not just happened since 2010. The Corston Report as an example, was written on the back of six female suicides in 2005 who were imprisoned at HMP Styal in Cheshire. Yes, six women in one year. Six. Under the Labour government. Sadik Khan may be fighting the corner of Probation as the meat cleaver comes down on the service, held by the hand of Mr Grayling. But, The Corston Report is gathering dust and we have a crisis on top of a crisis. A total fucking mess.
The British are well known as a public for being curious about prison & prisoners. I see campaigns for more people to be locked up counter-acted by campaigns for less punishment and more rehabilitation. Whichever way the coin is turned, there is a crisis. Prison is part of our society and it costs money. As a tax payer, I’m content that my hard-earned contributes to keeping a prisoner safe and where necessary, away from the public. On the back of this, I’d go further to say, I’d pay more tax so those who leave prison have a pathway whereby they have a shot at becoming working members of the society I live in.
One of the biggest questions I have been asked since launching live delivery of SHE, is “How do you get on with women who have left prison? ”
I’ll tell you. These women are human beings. They laugh, they cry, they get mad when people clutch their personal belongings as though Satan is in their midst. These women have the same travails that any member of society has. Living on a pittance, waiting for six weeks so their rent can be paid, wondering if their landlord will place an eviction order on them.
These women were still a part of Society when in prison, for non-violent offences. No agency went into help them with resettlement. In fact one of them was on remand for eight months & found not guilty. She was dumped outside the gates without a £47 grant and no home to return to. She had the clothes she was standing up in. She has dangerously low blood pressure and has had to wait for six weeks for a GP appointment. She has never sought action to shout about her situation on being incarcerated for eight months. She’s the least self-indulged person I know. SHE team have supported her (no payment received) and she’s soon to be engaging in a market stall to be guided in retail skills. A normal woman who has been discarded by a society that claims to care. She is part of Society. Yet never asked for anything apart from a home where she could build a life. SHE gave her this.
I was discarded by society in 2013. I never stopped submitting a tax return, I worked and while I was given a custodial sentence, I served a suspended sentence which carries as much weight as a custodial sentence in terms of disclosure requirements. I gatecrashed my way back into being a functioning member of society. Members of SHE will do so too.
So, when campaigners are fighting for more prison sentences for people, remember, it costs money, and all very well locking people up and feeling satisfied when this happens. But 95% of those people at some point will return to society and that society has a duty to ensure help is there to facilitate progress.
Prisoners are part of our society and it is time society wakened from their slumber so that prison leavers are able to move forward.