Thursday, August 18, 2005

Chief justice calls for new approach to law and order

UK: The retiring [ruling class]lord chief justice, Lord Woolf, made a passionate plea for a new approach to law and order which would see a major shift away from punishment towards the solution of problems which generate crime.

Lord Woolf suggests a shortlist of four strictly limited categories of offenders who might be imprisoned and - in sharp contrast to the rhetoric of government ministers - he adds: "We need wider understanding and acceptance that the principles of sentencing are not just founded on punishing offenders."

Lord Woolf is stepping down in September after five years as the most senior criminal judge in England and Wales. His comments come in a response to the Guardian's two-year investigation into the criminal justice system, which uncovered fundamental weaknesses. The heads of prisons, drug treatment and the new National Offender Management Service (Noms) also respond in the paper.

Lord Woolf argues for a fundamental change in the use of imprisonment, restricting its use to the most dangerous offenders and the most serious crimes, as a recognition of special offences and as a fall-back where all other efforts have failed. But his stress is on the need to find more effective ways of cutting crime.

"Whilst I firmly believe that for serious and violent crimes there is no alternative to a custodial sentence, I also believe passionately on taking steps to turn people away from crime," he writes.

"We do not want a system that shuts people outside society, once they have left the prison gates."

He highlights the failure of current measures to prevent reoffending: "All of us working within the system must aim to do much better than that."

He supports moves towards restorative justice, which sees offenders making amends to their victims; and he suggests there might be a wider use of the approach taken with young offenders by the Youth Justice Board, which pulls together different agencies in a concerted attack on the roots of crime: "I see great value in looking at the specific needs and problems of particular groups."

He welcomes the creation of the new Noms but, in an aside which may irritate Whitehall, he acknowledges concerns, highlighted in the Guardian series, that the Home Office is struggling to manage the creation of the new service.

His comments come as the prison population in England and Wales shows alarming signs of surging upwards. On Friday, it reached a new high of 76,877 with predictions that it may break through 77,000 this week - despite the fact that August normally sees a drop in imprisonment.

Courts are apparently being driven into tougher sentencing by the recent outbreak of punitive rhetoric from government ministers, led by the prime minister's comments on young people wearing hoodies. This week a court sentenced a teacher who had had sex with a 14-year-old pupil to 15 months in jail.

Lord Woolf has a history of standing up to ministers and other hardliners over this kind of rhetoric. In May he spoke out against the overcrowding of prisons immediately after the chief constable of Hampshire, Paul Kernaghan, had called for yet more offenders to be jailed.

Last year, he clashed with the former home secretary, David Blunkett, and the Sun newspaper, both of whom attacked his proposal to reduce the time served in prison by murderers who plead guilty. He has also challenged the lord chancellor's intervention in the appointment of judges for public inquiries.

In his response, the chief executive of Noms, Martin Narey, defends the organisation, which is merging prisons and probation. But he is outspoken about the past failings of probation, conceding that reporting to courts was "close to collapse"; some leaders of probation did not believe their clients were capable of being educated, even though this was one of their priorities; and that the caricature of community penalties being badly enforced was "uncomfortably close to reality".

By Nick Davies posted 18 August 05

The Long Trail to Apology

Native America: All manner of unusual things can happen in Washington in an election year, but few seem so refreshing as a proposed official apology from the federal government to American Indians - the first ever - for the "violence, maltreatment and neglect" inflicted upon the tribes for centuries.

Restorative Justice Practices

Restorative Justice Practices of Native American, First Nation and Other Indigenous People of North America. This is part one in a series of articles about restorative justice practices of Native American, First Nation and other indigenous people of North America. The series is not intended to be all-inclusive, but rather a broad thematic overview. A related eForum article, "The Wet'suwet'en Unlocking Aboriginal Justice Program: Restorative Practices in British Columbia, Canada," can be read at:

Restorative Justice and the Law

To acquire knowledge, one must study; but to acquire wisdom, one must observe."-- Marilyn vos Savant.

Government justice not personal justice

Mr Brett Collins of Justice Action said, "Victims should be looked after properly by implementing restorative justice measures and victims should be compensated for their pain and suffering. " However prisoners are entitled to serve their sentences in peace and privacy as well."

Sentencing: Violent crime and practical outcomes

In addition introducing restorative justice programs giving the offender a chance to interact with the offended person if they wish and visa-versa. People are not "dogmatic" therefore should be given a second chance opposed to Life means Life!

Sentencing reform

Beyond Bars is making a submission (with a focus on alternatives to custody) to the sentencing council. "We should consider the alternatives which take into account victims' interests and involvement. Restorative justice. Also mentoring as a positive form of social support, coupled up to restorative justice (as the punishment) to satisfy those who demand it."


Australian prisons are fast becoming the new asylums of the third millennium. The prison industry is booming, while Australia spends far less on mental health services than similar countries.

Given the importance that prisons and punishment have in maintaining control of increasingly restless populations, the task of achieving the release of the people in the jails and the closure of those institutions, seems daunting. But it is so vital to the 2nd Renaissance that we must find ways to do it.


Britain's only prison ship ends up on the beach
UK: The last inmates have departed and a skeleton staff is left guarding Britain's only prison ship - in case anyone is minded to break in rather than out.

Throw away the key
The one profession to get results on recidivism has been sacrificed to Labour's desire to lock up criminals in private prisons.

Judges' misdeeds will remain secret
UK: Judges who are disciplined for bad behaviour will not have the findings against them made public under a complaints regime to be launched next year.

Prisoner total rises 15% in six years
England and Wales are continuing to jail offenders at a higher rate than any other major country in western Europe, it emerged today. New research indicates that the government's use of prison as its main tool of penal policy has increased by 15% since 1999.

CPS drops prosecution over death in custody
UK: The family of Roger Sylvester, who died after being restrained by police officers, yesterday expressed their disappointment at a decision by the Crown Prosecution Service not to prosecute any of the officers involved.

Prisoner's cell death
UK: A prisoner was found hanged in his cell last week, the Home Office said, fuelling criticism over the soaring number of suicides in custody.

Plans for five new 'superprisons'
Recent figures show a total of 75,550 prisoners were held in 139 jails in England and Wales, nudging up the previous record of April 2004 by just six inmates.

Prison has lost its way - report
UK: Bristol prison is suffering wide-ranging problems because of inconsistent management, the Chief Inspector of Prisons has said.

Row over acupuncture for prisoners
UK: The Home Office has responded to criticism over prison inmates who are being offered acupuncture on the NHS in order to relieve stress.

Number of prisoners sent back to jail trebles
UK: The number of prisoners being sent back to jail after release has nearly trebled in the past five years, according to a report published today.

Top judge says crowded prisons cannot break cycle of crime
UK: Reoffending rates after a prison sentence are at an "unacceptably high level" and the failure of the criminal justice system to stop prisoners reoffending should shock the public, England's top judge, [Ruling Class] Lord Woolf, said last week.

All the World's a Prison: History
No doubt many of my readers, even those who are well-educated or widely read, think that the prison -- the place where dark deeds are darkly answered[2] -- is an ancient institution, a barbaric hold-over from barbaric times. In fact, the prison is of relatively recent origin, and this tells us a great deal about the pretentions and realities of modern times, and the wisdom and high degree of development of the ancients.

Decade after inspector left in disgust, report tells of filth
UK: Dirty, mice-infested cells, high levels of self-harm, and widespread bullying over drugs and medications were just some of the damning findings of a report into conditions at Holloway, Britain's largest women's prison.

Most women 'should not be jailed'
Women make up 6% of the prison population in England and Wales. Imprisonment of women should be "virtually abolished", a prison reform group has said.

Youth 'murdered for officers' pleasure'
UK: An Asian teenager was murdered by a white racist after they were placed in the same cell as part of a game to fulfil the "perverted pleasure" of prison officers, a public inquiry heard on Friday.

Deaths in isolation as prison segregation increases
The use of segregation [solitary confinement] of prisoners as punishment has been increasing recently in Australia, the US, and the UK. Segregation can be used for protection or punishment, but in both cases it results in extreme psychological stress. An indication that segregation is being over-used is the appearance of deaths in custody from suicide of those placed in segregation.

Inquest blames jail for overdose death
UK: An inquest jury returned a verdict itemising a catalogue of faults at Styal prison in Cheshire, concluding that the prison's "failure of duty of care" contributed to the death of Sarah Campbell, 18, who took an overdose of tablets on the first day of her three-year sentence.

Put in the way of self-harm in a place intended to protect others
UK: Sarah Campbell, 18, spent the last hours of her life in the segregation unit of Styal prison, Cheshire. "The seg", as those places are referred to, used to be known as "the block", short for punishment block. [ Seg is a bullshit word for Punishment, Solitary Confinement, Torture, Mental Illness, Self-Harm, Human Rights Abuse and that is State Terror.]

Britain 'sliding into police state'
The home secretary, Charles Clarke, is transforming Britain into a police state, one of the country's former leading anti-terrorist police chiefs [false flag police chiefs] said yesterday.

UK solitary confinement
UK: Segregation units are prisons within prisons - the places where the most unchecked brutality is meted out to prisoners. In recent years conditions in high security segregation units have deteriorated, and the use of long-term segregation as a control mechanism has increased.

Inquiry must root out prison racists
UK: It is difficult to imagine a more brutal murder than that of Zahid Mubarek. The 19-year-old was clubbed to death by his cellmate at Feltham Young Offender Institution in the early hours of 21 March 2000. He was due to be released just a few hours later.

Prison suicides soar as jails hire 'babysitters'
UK: Prison officers are being taken off suicide watch and replaced by unqualified 'babysitters' because the system is overwhelmed by an epidemic of self-harm.

Plan to sell off juvenile jails as job lot
UK: The government is to put out to tender all its dedicated juvenile jails that hold children under 18 in a departure in Whitehall's privatisation programme.

Failure to sack 'racist' prison staff condemned
UK: Two prison officers suspended for racism are still on full pay three years after a stash of Nazi memorabilia, neo-fascist literature and Ku Klux Klan-inspired 'nigger-hunting licences' was found in a police raid on their home.

Report slams 'unjust' jailing of women on remand
UK: Six out of 10 women sent to jail while they await trial are acquitted or given a non-custodial sentence, a report published today reveals. Introducing the report, Lady Kennedy QC calls for a complete review of the use of remand and bail for women saying it is "inhumane and unjust".

Concern as UK prison suicides hit record level
UK: More prisoners took their own lives in English jails in August than in any other month since records began, prison reformers said today.

End of years of despair as Holloway closes its doors
But now Holloway prison in north London - where Ruth Ellis, the last woman to be executed in Britain, was hanged in 1955 - has been earmarked for closure, along with several other women's prisons, which have been hit by a spate of suicides.

How detox and self-help brought suicide jail back from the brink
UK: Six suicides in 12 months made Styal jail notorious and the Prisons Ombudsman criticised the prison and its staff for serious failures. But things are changing.

Belmarsh detainees consider suicide, says freed man
UK: The first of the Muslim detainees released from Belmarsh high security prison after being held on suspicion of terrorism has told the Guardian his fellow prisoners are suffering such severe mental problems that they constantly consider suicide.

Suicides and unrest have soared, admits Home Office
UK:The already overcrowded prison population is set to go on rising and will top 80,000 within the next three years, a senior Home Office civil servant warned yesterday.

England tops the EU in imprisonment
England and Wales jail more offenders per capita than any other European, Union country, according to new figures.