Birmingham,The Stirrer, Black Country

news that matters, campaigns that count

for Birmingham, the Black Country and beyond

The Barbara Panvel column



The prison system is bursting at the seams, and this week staff at HMP Winson Green in Birmingham have been refusing to oversee inmates on suicide watch in a protest over pay. Barbara Panvel considers ways of reducing the jail population.

Professor David Wilson of the University of Central England recently suggested abolishing prisons - that's a step too far for most. Prisons are surely needed to contain the violent but there is no point in imprisoning debtors and those found guilty of theft and fraud.

They could work off their debts, with an added fine, in a unit or workshop. Their debts would be paid, the expense of imprisonment would be saved and family life could go on as usual.

Restorative justice pilot projects are being used in this country, but apologies alone are not enough - compensation must be made.

This is understood and practised in Germany, where wealthy criminals - people like Lord Archer, say - pay huge fines which go into a fund for victims; while other non-violent criminals have been given compensatory labour sentences instead of imprisonment.

In England there is some effective rehabilitation outside prisons. There are a number of farms where former offenders work with animals or produce food, gaining skills and a new interest in life; the rate of reoffending in these cases is low.

Sadly and quite irrationally, the funding from the Home Office for this training has now been withdrawn. Individuals like TV gardener Monty Don go ahead with this worthwhile work under their own ‘steam'.

The Leeds restorative justice project has lowered reoffending rate to 75% after one year and 68% after two. Balsall Heath's Renaissance 21 {within the Jericho Community Business Ltd] provides technical training and work experience in the construction industry to severely troubled young people.

These valuable projects should be supported and an economic framework built which ensures that all would have some hope and purpose in life.

We cannot keep locking up more and more people in these vast human warehouses which all the evidence shows are simply schools for criminals, encouraging them to get deeper into a life of crime rather than steering them away from it.


The Stirrer Forum

The Stirrer home

valid xhtml

©2006 - 2009 The Stirrer