Monday, August 15, 2005

More than half of jails in England are too full

UK: More than half the jails in England and Wales are dangerously overcrowded and the conditions could be contributing to the number of prisoner suicides, a penal reform group warned last night.

The Prison Reform Trust, which campaigns on behalf of inmates and their families, said the prison system had 10,000 more inmates than it was designed to hold.

With inmates reaching a record 76,897 this week, 74 of the 142 jails are over the prison service's "certified normal accommodation", the charity said. It added that 15 prisons exceeded even their safe overcrowding limit in July.

The "operational capacity" of a jail is defined as the total number of prisoners it can accommodate, allowing for a safe level of overcrowding

In July last year, the then prisons' minister, Paul Goggins, was asked in parliament about overcrowding. He said: "All those prisons are within their operating capacity, which is the total number of prisoners that an establishment can hold, taking into account control, security and proper operation of the planned regime."

But a year on, the charity said, 15 prisons across England and Wales were operating beyond their overcrowding limit, thereby jeopardising, the "control, security and the proper operation of the planned regime".

"This overcrowding poses a real and serious danger to prison and public safety," said Juliet Lyon, the director of the trust. The government had grown complacent about overcrowding and was "breaching its own final buffer".

"The summer holiday season usually gives prisons a respite while the courts take their break, instead the population is growing month on month. Even in the quietest months of the year, pressure is still building up within prisons."

The charity fears the situation could worsen in the next five years. The most recent Home Office projections forecast a jail population of up to 90,000 by 2010.

The Home Office last night played down the concerns.

"Prisons may exceed their certified normal accommodation, the figure at which the prison operates comfortably, but we do not operate above the operational capacity," a spokeswoman said.

"On some occasions prisons are listed as having populations higher than their operational capacity.

"The reason is most often attributed to the fact [that] a prisoner or a number of prisoners are absent on authorised absences, such as when a prisoner is recorded as part of an establishment's population but is held outside, for example in hospital or on release on temporary licence."

The trust claimed that overcrowding and worsening conditions were linked to a recent spate of suicides in prison and called for an investigation.

It said more than 17,000 prisoners were being held two to a cell built for one, and that such cells do not have to have separately ventilated lavatories, meaning more than one person must eat, sleep and defecate in the same small room.

Since the beginning of June, it said, there had been 26 apparent self-inflicted deaths in custody. Of these, 24 occurred in overcrowded jails.

"The terrible correlation between overcrowding and deaths demands urgent investigation," said Ms Lyon.

The growth in the number of prisoners could not be checked without proper measures. "It will take a concerted effort to reserve prison for serious and violent offenders and to invest in drug treatment, mental healthcare and safe, effective alternatives to custody," she said.

"Right now, the prison population is mushrooming out of control, and the government is still trying hopelessly to build its way out of a crisis."

Lucie Russell, director of SmartJustice, which campaigns for more alternatives to custody, said: "There is nothing smart about stacking up prisoners in overcrowded jails. It leads to more, not less, offending on release. It is not tough on crime, it is tough on the rest of us."

It emerged last month that senior judges are planning to urge the courts to cut average sentences by 15% in the hope of preventing the prison population from reaching 90,000 by 2010.

By Sam Jones posted 15 August 05


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.