On Wednesday 25th January, an all-members meeting of Guildford Labour Party focused on the prison system.
The discussion was led by Brian Creese and we were delighted to welcome two guests, Hollie Smith who works for St Mungos at HMP Bronzefield and Alison Drew, who works for St Giles Trust at HMP Send.
Members heard how the number of prisoners almost doubled between 1994 and 2010, and that since the Coalition came into office prison officer numbers have been cut by a fifth.
This has led to normal prison services being largely suspended, with little education or other ‘purposeful activity’ currently taking place across the system.
The meeting also heard about the rise in assaults, self-harm events and the record number of suicides in prisons. In this context it is little surprise that prisons are failing to rehabilitate prisoners.
All the speakers agreed that short sentences, those of three months or less achieve little at enormous cost, and should be replaced by better and more effective community sentences and restorative justice processes.
It was also agreed that it is not just the number of prison officer which is a concern but their quality, and far better training needs to be provided.