Doing Time: Prisons in the 21st Century
A ground-breaking study of national importance of our criminal justice system by one of Britain’s most intellectual and highly-regarded MPs, a former criminal barrister of note.
Prison does work. It locks people up so that the prisoner cannot then commit a crime: yet prison for years has failed to change the prisoner’s behaviour. It is a disappointing fact of our prison system that under the last government released prisoners had a reoffending rate of approximately 70%. Prisons are a short term fix, not a long term solution.
The public does not want us to be soft on prisoners. The Justice system needs to command the respect and confidence of the people. It clearly has not commanded that respect for some considerable time. Repeated polling shows that the public wants prison to be more effective at changing prisoners’ behaviour. Put simply, it wants government to knuckle down and make prisons work .
This study attempts to analyse what went wrong with the prison regimes in the past, makes suggestions for future changes, and assesses how things are changing under the new government.
By ignoring prisoners, locking them up, and then discharging them with no basic skills, and still drug addicted, we have created a recipe for disaster and ever increasing prison numbers. This government should make the tackling of crime and reoffending a number one priority. The key point is that we know what the problems are: all are capable of being addressed.
About the Author
Guy Opperman is the Member of Parliament for Hexham. He gave his maiden speech on the subject of prison reform and changes to the criminal justice system.
Guy spent 20 years as a barrister – 15 years of which were spent predominantly at the criminal bar. Guy prosecuted and defended in multiple murder and rape trials, and conducted hundreds of Crown Court trials all cross the country.
He was one of the key members of a local Free Representation Unit, which over a 7 year period provided free legal assistance in hundreds of cases on behalf of Victim Support and Citizens Advice Bureau. The scheme is now being copied nationwide. In 2007 Guy was awarded the Bar Pro Bono Award by the former Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith QC, both for his voluntary work on behalf of victims in Criminal Injuries Compensation Appeals, but also for his campaign against hospital closures in the town where he was born.
He has 20 years’ experience of visiting prisons from Bristol and Durham, to Brixton and beyond, as a lawyer and MP. In 2009 the Attorney General, Baroness Scotland QC, gave him a Pro Bono Hero award in the House of Commons for his pro bono work campaigning to prevent hospital closures
On weekends off he still rides as a slightly fat jockey.
The Holy Trinity:
1.A drug free prison?
2.Addressing literacy in prisons
3.Making Prisoners Work
What type of Prison do we want?
4.Who goes to Prison?
5.The Big Society Prison
6.Prisons that pay by results
Criminal Justice Reform:
7.Ending the “silo system” in our criminal justice system
8.Sentences for serious criminals
- Bretwalda Books, October 2012
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