The flash action by prison officers should be taken seriously. Very seriously. The government acted quickly to get a court order to force their hand. Not only is this a sign that prisons aren’t working but that the overcrowding seriously impeded any meaningful work they might be able to achieve. The whole system is a mess and a blot on what is supposed to be a civilised society.
“The bureaucracy has to be seen to be believed,” says Mr Robinson. Legal papers, suicide watch checks and personal data form small piles for prisoners who may be in the prison for under a week. “The strain is increased hugely in my time because of drugs and mental health problems.
“When I started here we were locking up criminals. Now it’s mostly people with a drug habit or psychiatric disorders. I’d guess 80%.” Source Guardian 20/8/2007.
This extract from a Guardian interview with a prison officer illustrates how bad things are away from public view with Thatcherite policies maintained and intensified under New Labour. Let’s repeat what he’s saying.
When I started here we were locking up criminals. Now it’s mostly people with a drug habit or psychiatric disorders. I’d guess 80%
So what we suspected is the case: prisons have become used for more than dealing with criminals, including the most vulnerable people in society with mental illness. Even so his estimate of 80% is unbelievable. But we and the government better believe!
Pauline Campbell drew my attention to a series of letters in the Guardian to which she has contributed.