Eric Allison at Lunchworks - Discussion Part 2 - Prison by numbers

Uploaded by reasondigital on 14.07.2011

So we know that prison doesn't work. I say the main reason why it doesn't
work is, there's so many reasons why it doesn't work, we know what the appalling re-offending
rates are, across the board it's around sixty odd percent, it goes to around eighty percent
for young offenders, and I repeat - they say the minimum cost of keeping a kid in custody
is sixty thousand, it's not, they've got hidden charges that they don't mention, it's about
eighty thousand at least, minimum, and I say again about Eton, at thirty thousand pounds
a year. But the main reason I believe why it doesn't work is because it's a blanket
treatment. If for example you, sorry to pick on you, if you were unfortunate enough to
be convicted today by the magistrates or the crown court, your first offence, you've never
been in prison before, you'll go to Strangeways tonight, or Forest Bank, but let's say Strangeways
for the sake of argument. I'm still a criminal now, I'd been convicted again today, we could
share a cell this evening. In other words, we'll get treated, and by the way you'd be
lucky to share a cell with me and I'll tell you for why. As opposed to sharing it with
a heroin addict who's withdrawing, who will be puking all night and diarrhoea and everything
else, or somebody with serious mental health problems, so you'd be very fortunate if you
don't mind me saying so, to share a cell. Now you will then go to, you'll probably go
to a Cat C jail then, but the ethos of the Cat C jail is still the same as the ethos
in the Cat A and B jail, and you may finish up in an open prison, which of course is open,
but the ethos is still the same, the rules are roughly the same, so I equate this with,
I don't know how many people in this room, thirty, say that we all live in the street,
okay, and we all share the same GP. We've all got something wrong with us, I've got
high cholesterol, you think of it, every one of us has got something wrong with us at different,
and we meet up in the surgery and we say, 'No, I'm not feeling any better, I'm not feeling
any better, you're not feeling -'. 'What tablets are you on?' 'Oh, I'm on the same tablets',
and we're all on the same tablets. There's eighty five thousand people in prison, eighty
five thousand different reasons why they're there, but by and large it's a blanket treatment
and that's why it doesn't work, but don't take my word for it. I'm just going to give
you a very few bullet points from this Prison Reform Trust Bromley Briefings prison fact
file, it comes out every year, this is June 2011 so it's very current. I'm just going
to give you a couple of facts here. England and Wales has an imprisonment rate of 154
per 100,000 of the population. France has an imprisonment rate of 96 per 100,000 and
Germany has a rate of 88 per 100,000, so in other words, we lock up twice as many people
as Germany for example. Approximately, the papers say we're soft on crime, short sentences
and everything else, approximately 70 percent of the increase in demand for prison places
between '95 and 2005 is estimated to have arisen owing to changes in custody and rate
and sentence length. We lock up more people for longer than anywhere else in Europe, we
are not soft on crime. In 2009, 55,000 people were remanded in custody to await trial. 40
percent of those people didn't go on to receive a custodial sentence. What are they doing
in prison, when they're not going to get a custodial sentence? 36,000 people were given
custodial sentences up to and including three months in 2009. Absolute nonsense, a three
month prison sentence. You do half of that, so you do six weeks, you go in Strangeways
and you lie on your bed for six weeks, and that's what you do, and then they put you
out again with 46 quid and think that, you know, they've done something good out of that.
At the end of May 2011, 80 of the 132 prisons in England and Wales were over-crowded. That
means that the programmes that are in place for rehabilitation, victim awareness, stuff
like that, they can't be done because of the over-crowding. The number of women in prisons
increased by 114 percent over the last 15 years, and I tell you this. I visit prisons
a lot and there are many vulnerable men in prison, but I tell you now, you go to a woman's
prison and you will see sights and hear sounds that would make a dry stone wall weep, I tell
you, it is shocking. Women form around 6 percent of the prison population but they make up
for over 50 percent of all incidents of self harm. Six percent of the prison population,
you go to Styal, you go to Holloway, you will see women, scars, scars, scars, women who
have set fire to their hair, women who are damaged, the last place they need to be is
prison. Between 2003-04 and 2008-09 expenditure increased, prison expenditure, in real terms
from 2.52 billion to 3.4 billion pound a year, so this stupid failed system costing more
and more money. Snapshot of people in prison. Seventy one percent of children in custody
have been involved with or in the care of social services before entering custody, seventy
one percent, and if ever a form of words was misused or stolen, it's the words 'in care',
because they really were, I'm covering a case at the moment, horrible horrible story about
stuff that's happened to kids born vulnerable, born in the worst of circumstances, who then
go on to get abused by the system and the system tries to cover it up. Ninety percent
of young men and seventy five percent of young women in prison have been excluded from school,
so we know, we can see what's happening, kids excluded from school, and we know what's going
to happen, they're going to go to jail, why don't we stop it now. Why don't we take this
kid that's been excluded from school and try and stop him or her from going to prison.
Over half the women in prison report having suffered domestic violence, and one in three
has experienced sexual abuse. Ten percent of men and thirty percent of women have had
a previous psychiatric admission before they came into prison. A prison governor told me
only a few weeks ago, in Brixton, that somewhere like about eighty percent of his clients have
got significant psychiatric problems, so in other words, the closure of the secure hospitals
in the '80s when Thatcher sold it off, we're putting them in prison now. And I think this
is nearly, yep, and the re-offending rates. Four out of five of young offenders re-offend,
and that by the way, is the only the ones who get caught re-offending. On that basis,
I was always a success because I always had at least a two year gap between prison sentences,
sometimes seven or eight years gap, but I was active from day one practically. Even
those awful figures don't show the thing. Now, don't take my word for it, don't take
the Prison Reform Trust's word for it. This is research by the prime minister's strategy
unit, shows that a 22 percent increase in the prison population since '97 is estimated
to have reduced crime by around five percent, that's all, during a period when overall crime
fell by thirty percent. The report states, and this is not my report, the prison reform's,
this is a government thing, there is no convincing evidence that further increases in the use
of custody would significantly reduce crime. And lastly, people say, 'Oh well, the victims
want revenge' and everything else, but again a survey by Smart Justice in partnership with
Victim Support shows that almost two thirds of victims of crime do not believe that prison
works to reduce non-violent crimes, so I'm going to wrap up on that by saying we've got
this system here, it's massively expensive, clearly clearly clearly doesn't work, but
successive governments carry on doing it. I was in prison when new labour came in, and
I thought, 'Thank god for that, we're going to get some changes'. What did they do? Up
the prison population by nearly 20,000, introduced god knows how many, now they're criticising
Ken Clarke, they're blowing him out of the water. Yes he made some unfortunate remarks
about a situation, but overall he talks sense about prison. The first one who's done it
in my lifetime, possibly since Douglas Hurd who was another Tory, and I'm certainly not
a Tory, but there you are, they're going to blow him out of the water, he'll be gone soon,
and we'll go back to this spiral of locking up more people in the system. Some of you
are from business, can you imagine going to your bank manager and saying, 'Here, we've
got this system where eighty percent of our clients are totally dissatisfied, it doesn't
work, the product that we have doesn't work with them, give us some more money so we can
carry on doing the same thing', it's a disgrace. Thank you very much.