[Image credit: “In prison, those things withheld from and denied to the prisoner become precisely what he wants most of all. Eldridge Cleaver” by katerha is marked with CC BY 2.0. ]
A government press release has the heading “thousands of new prison places to rehabilitate offenders and cut crime.” It seems odd when most people would not think of a prison sentence as rehabilitation but rather as a punishment or deterrent.
The announcement goes on to say that there will be an “unprecedented” refurbishment and expansion programme to create more than 4,000 prison places. The places will be spread across 16 prisons with the building of new wings and refurbishment of prisons.
The government has said that these new places are part of a larger plan and investment to create 20,000 prison places. The key point made is that the places are being created to ensure the right conditions are in place to rehabilitate prisoners properly.
HMP High Down in Surrey will be getting a new workshop, and eight prisons will receive new house blocks, subject to planning permission. Permission is already in place for HMPS Stocken, Guys Marsh, High Down, Birmingham and Liverpool. The places are to provide prisoners with education, addiction support, and skills to be rehabilitated and not return to crime after leaving prison.
The house blocks will have an “innovative design”, making it easier to access the supporting facilities, such as kitchens, staff offices and healthcare. The workshops and classrooms will mean that prisoners can receive education and training to help them to find employment after release.
The seven refurbishment sites are HMPs Norwich, Feltham, Aylesbury, Haverigg and Swinfen Hall, Liverpool and Birmingham. Four of these have already been completed. The additions house blocks are to be built at HMPs Bullingdon, Channings Wood, Elmley, Highpoint, Hindley, Wayland, Guys Marsh, High Down and Stocken.
The truth of the matter may come within the notes attached to the press release. The prison population is expected to increase by 19,000 in the next few years. The increase is said to be expected as a result of the recruitment of 20,000 new police officers and the government’s intention to crack down on crime. The Ministry of Justice has also announced an intention to recruit up to 5,000 additional prison officers, which will be needed to cope with the extra numbers.
Increasing the prospects of rehabilitation through better access to addiction support and employment training has to be a good idea. However, there will be some concerns that the increase in prison places is simply a result of the need for more prison places rather than to improve rehabilitation rates. It remains to be seen if the primary aim is rehabilitation and whether access to education, training and healthcare is achieved.
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