Prisons in the press – 2 October

Jamaican jails, illegal letter opening and solitary confinement 

Halden Prison art work. Source: Trond Isaksen / Statsbygg

Prisons in the press brings you the best articles from the past week to keep you up-to-date on prison news.


Hot off the press

Prime Minister David Cameron jetted in to Jamaica this week with many on the island calling for the UK to pay reparations for colonialism and slavery. But instead Mr Cameron offered a £25m foreign-aid funded prison.

The new jail will be used to repatriate Jamaican prisoners sentenced to at least four years who have 18 months or more left to serve in custody according to the BBC.

There was a strong backlash in Jamaica with many people calling for the government to reject the prison.

In context

Rod Liddle, the Sun columnist, wrote that “British jails are crammed with Jamaican criminals. Drug-dealing Yardie thugs and the like.”

In fact, as Left Foot Forward points outJamaican nationals made up just 718 – or 0.8 per cent – of the prison population in 2014. Of foreign nationals, they make up 6.6 per cent.

The number of Jamaican nationals in British prisons has been decreasing steadily since 2002 when there were 2,588.


Revealed this week 

  1. An investigation by the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman (PPO) for England and Wales found that a number of private letters between inmates and their lawyers were opened by prison staff in breach of the rules according to the BBC. The PPO said that some letters had been “deliberately” opened on security grounds without the prisoner involved having the opportunity to be present, as the rules require.
  2. An inmate at maximum-security prison HMP Whitemoor has been kept in segregation for two-and-a-half years, according to a report by the Independent Monitoring Board (IMB).
  3. A complete ban on smoking in prisons in England and Wales is to be phased in from January, despite warnings from prison governors that it risked making jails more unstable according to The Guardian. It spells the end of the “tobacco barons” operating inside the jails and finally ends the day when “snout” was the traditional currency behind bars. More than four in five prisoners smoke.
  4. Maghaberry Prison, Northern Ireland’s main high-security prison is “not fit for purpose”, Assembly members have been told according to The Belfast Telegraph. However, Justice Minister David Ford said the appointment of a new governor and 35 per cent reduction in staff sickness levels had addressed some of the major issues identified at the jail.


In other news 

Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, visited a pioneering drug and alcohol rehabilitation project at women’s prison HMP Send in Woking, Surrey according to the Evening Standard.

Unfortunately many of the press articles on the rare visit concentrated on what she was wearing and her new fringe rather than the plight of addicted female prisoners.

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