I have retired now but I worked as a teacher in Winchester prison for almost 30 years and also took part in other aspects of prison life.

I have seen how things have deteriorated over the years. When I started work, the prison wasn’t so overcrowded, fewer drugs were used and this may partly have meant less violence, More education and other activities were available both in the daytime and in the evenings.

Especially in the evenings, there were quite a few subjects to choose from. Contrast this with the fact it is now 2024 and over a year since Ofsted rated any prison education department as 'good' and more than half of those inspected were judged ‘inadequate'.

Prisons and prisoners have never been vote winners. Jonathan Aitken was right when he said ’Prison Reform has long been the Cinderella of British Public Policy. In the Olympic Games of politics, prisons have the status of tiddlywinks’.

All we hear about is the need to shut more people up and for longer and that ‘prison works’. If it did work we would be closing them not needing more.

When Rory Stewart became Justice and Prisons Minister he described the system he found as 'grotesque, horrifying and shameful’. He felt that the staff were demoralised, under-resourced and too few in number. Crucially, there is little chance to keep inmates occupied and rehabilitate them in many establishments.

At this time there are election broadcasts, canvassers and leaflets to read but how often do we come upon the words ‘prison’ and ‘prisoners?’. Some trot out ‘justice’, 'crime figures’ and ‘policing’ but that is not the same.

We must hope that something can be done to impress upon whichever party is in power that it must improve the dire situation which is a disgrace to the country and a judgement on us as human beings.

Pat Brockway

Kings Worthy

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