I am writing this sitting in a car parked outside a UK cat B prison. Having taken my mate’s wife to see her man. I left the visit early. She is still inside with him for the next hour. Giving them some time together without me getting in the road.
There are people in our prisons
Both me and Karoline have been on the UK HMP tour for a number of years now. Our system is now falling apart and in a perpetual state of crisis. Unable to deliver anything useful to the society it’s supposed to serve, let alone the people in prison. The prison system is becoming nothing more than a dumping ground for people. Yes! I said people! Not Lags or Scum.
Prisons are communities of people who have made mistakes. Not communities of mistakes made by people.
To us, at the heart of the problem is public ignorance and prejudice. Induced by media myths that play on public fear of crime, and the unknown. This results in political fear and thus holding up change.
A friend said to me recently that “prison should not be soft.” This is based on the notion that prison is for punishment once you arrive. Not the punishment.
If you believe that for the majority of people, the act of being suddenly taken from everything you have ever known is not a punishment, and that designed punishments are needed… Try this:
Have someone lock you in the smallest room in a strange house.
In another part of the UK.
The bathroom would make good pad (cell). As it’s likely got a toilet in.
Have them take the lid off the toilet and put a bed next to it.
Plus maybe a TV if your friend will allow it. And a few other bits.
Now for the punishment aspect.
Get this person to feed you on £2.10 a day or less.
You will eat by an open toilet, remember.
And keep you banged up. Or locked in for 23 hours or whole weekends at a time.
We will bet that within the first 24 hours you will be climbing up the walls and banging on the door. If we continued this for a few months or more, you would likely come out with a mental health problem even if you didn’t have one when you started.
‘Life’ upon release
Remember that 95% of the prison population will be released over time. Do you now feel that the above experience has helped you?
Is it good for you to be released with mental health issues and all the trauma that prison has thrown upon you? How does the state you’re now in protect the public from you long term? It doesn’t, does it?
You’re in a worse state now than before.
And this is the thing that the UK public need to get their heads around. Why do we have prison as a punishment? Not for punishment, as the latter will likely make people worse. You wouldn’t treat a dog like this. The dog would end up biting you or other people.
How about offering compassion to the dog, and likewise to the people in prisons? Through skills, encouragement, and assistance with improving their lot should they feel ready to. Those steps will stop A) the dog biting you and B) likely reduce the chances of re-offending by the people after release.
This guest blog was written by Marcus, who stands by his friend in prison and campaigns alongside the latter’s wife, Karoline. This article is part of a series of guest blogs written by Injustice Documentary’s interviewees and other criminal justice reformers and experts. If you are interested in submitting a piece, please contact us.