In the past few months the Justice Secretary Chris Grayling has been rapidly diminishing the regime for people in prison. Last year he ordered all new prisoners back into prison uniform, then he stopped prisoners having Christmas presents sent in from their families. He has meddled with the Incentives and Earned Privileges Scheme so that prisoners who want to achieve the “enhanced” level of imprisonment – i.e. an extra visit a month, a better cell, a bit more money to spend from their private cash – have to do “over and above” just being well behaved. (A particularly niggardly move as he knows full well that so called “purposeful activity” in our prisons is becoming as elusive as the evidence that his other big idea, “Payment by Results” will actually work.)
More recently he has decided to restrict ROTL – Release on Temporary Licence – because of several high profile failures – yet last year there were almost half a million successful releases from prison on temporary licence. Nastiest of all of Grayling’s interference with the running of prisons however is his decision to ban prisoners from having books sent in and – incredibly – writing materials. These moves apparently are supposed to somehow magically “Transform Rehabilitation” and lead to a reduction in reoffending – yet a more illogical approach to the problem of recidivism would be hard to find.
This week he admitted that the system he presides over was “very flawed” and that the consistently high reoffending figures for released prisoners (costing the economy between £9bn and 13bn a year according to the office for national statistics) – was a “crazy situation.” Mr Grayling talks about “rehabilitation” on the one hand and yet treats people in prison like his own personal political pawns on the other. The fact is, it is the Justice Secretary’s rhetoric that is “crazy” and his determination to involve himself in the decisions which dictate the quality in the minutiae of prison landing life which is “very flawed.”
Commenting on Grayling’s decision to ban books being sent to prisoners Frances Crook, the Director of the Howard League for Penal Reform said: “Over the last year, because of shrinking prison budgets, staff cuts and increasing numbers, prisoners have been spending even longer in their cells without access to facilities such as libraries. It is common for prisoners to spend 20 hours a day in their cells during the week. At weekends they can be cooped up from Friday lunchtime until Monday morning. Conditions have deteriorated so much in recent months that this has become a major concern.
“Being able to read a book is a lifeline and a way of nourishing the mind. As families and friends are now forbidden from sending basic items into prison, prisoners are sitting in stinking cells, wearing dirty clothes, with nothing to do and not even a book to read. We urge the government [i.e Mr Grayling] to reconsider this draconian measure.”
If he really has the interests of future potential victims of people coming out of prison he really should reconsider all of the above.
PS Please sign this petition for the ban on prisoners having books sent in to be rescinded: http://www.change.org/petitions/rt-hon-chris-grayling-mp-please-urgently-review-and-amend-your-new-rules-which-restrict-prisoners-access-to-books-and-family-items-in-particular-from-children-rules-which-are-inconsistently-applied-in-any-event