12:47, August 19 65 0 theguardian.com

2018-08-19 12:47:05
Military model can’t curb violance in jails

Rory Stewart’s prison plan ignores some key issues (Prisons minister: I’ll quit if assaults do not fall in problem jails, 17 August). He reduces safety to the issue of assaults. However, as prisons inspectorate reports acknowledge, keeping prisoners safe is more complex. Their treatment by staff can also imperil their safety, and these reports repeatedly cite a lack of care for prisoners in the context of a systematic culture of systemic indifference, complacency, immunity and impunity towards them, with little or no democratic accountability at all levels of the prison service. In this context, better physical conditions will not keep distressed prisoners safe. Similarly, the “military model” he advocates is a red herring.

So we ask: will he resign if the number of deaths in prison rise again, or incidents of self-harm fail to fall from the obscene levels that now prevail, especially in women’s prisons? In any case, as a stream of official reports indicates, we know how to achieve better prison safety: by dramatically reducing the prison population coupled with investment in community services (in particular services for mental ill health and addictions) and more therapeutic and safer environments for prisoners and staff.

Deborah Coles director, Inquest

Professor Joe Sim Liverpool John Moores University

Professor Steve Tombs Open University

Rory Stewart pledged to significantly reduce violence in the 10 worst prisons in a year, but demonstrated a lack of logic to address the problem. He said that drugs were driving the violence, but that he was planning to address the violence, not the drugs. It may be worth looking at why prisons are full of drugs. If prisoners are treated humanely, and given programmes of training and education which engage their interest and energy, they will have less time and motivation to turn to drugs in the first place. Whatever the reasons, it would seem to make sense to tackle the cause rather than the symptoms.

Cherry Weston

Wolverhampton

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