The UK prison system is in melt down

The UK prison system is in melt down.  Currently we have riots in prisons, high staff turnover due to assaults, and high suicide rates.

Riots in prison

Violence in prison seems to be on the increase.  Assaults behind bars increased by more than 34% to 23,775 – about 65 per day – in the 12 months to the end of June 2016.  The MoJ figures show an increasingly volatile situation in women’s prisons, with the number of assaults rising by 25% in a year.

The Ministry of Justice has explicitly acknowledged that staff cuts are a factor in the rising tide of violence in prisons in England and Wales.  The MoJ commentary on the prison safety figures states:

“The rise in assaults since 2012 has coincided with major changes to the regime, operating arrangements and culture in public sector prisons.  For example, restructuring of the prison estate, including staff reductions, which have reduced overall running costs, and an increase in gang culture and illicit psychoactive drugs in prisons.”

In recent months we’ve seen a murder in Pentonville prison, riots in Lewes, Bedford, Birmingham and  Swaleside and the Prison Officers’ Association stating that Hull prison is ‘on [the] brink of riot’ after inmates arrive from Birmingham.

High staff turnover

The Prison Officers’ Association (POA) said that the National Offender Management Service, which oversees the country’s prisons, has classed 12 jails as “red sites”, meaning they do not have enough staff to operate a standard regime. A similar number are classed as “amber sites”, indicating they are also suffering acute staffing issues. The POA has estimated around 35% of the country’s prisons were experiencing some form of staffing problem.

Figures published by the Ministry of Justice show that in the past year the number of full-time prison officers has dropped by almost 600.

High suicide rates

The Howard League for Penal Reform said it had been notified of the deaths by suicide of 102 people up until 18 November – the equivalent of one every three days and breaking the record for frequency of suicides.

According to Frances Cook, the director of the Howard League:

“With five weeks remaining until the end of the year, it is already the highest death toll in a calendar year since recording practices began in 1978. The previous high was in 2004 when 96 deaths by suicide were recorded.”

Crook said:

“The number of people dying by suicide in prison has reached epidemic proportions. No one should be so desperate while in the care of the state that they take their own life and yet, every three days, a family is told that a loved one has died behind bars.

“By taking bold but sensible action to reduce the number of people in prison, we can save lives and prevent more people being swept away into deeper currents of crime and despair.”

Prison staff struggle to recognise mental health risk factors as shown in the case of Josh Collinson, aged 18, who was found hanged at Swinfen Hall young offender institution in Staffordshire on 3 September last year.  He had been transferred the previous day from Parc prison, in south Wales, where he had self-harmed on six occasions and been placed on a list of at-risk prisoners.

So what can be done?

One of the key issues is to lower the jail population.  As Kenneth Clarke, the Conservative former home secretary and justice secretary, Jacqui Smith, the Labour former home secretary, and Nick Clegg, the Lib Dem former deputy prime minister, have warned that the prison crisis will do “untold damage to wider society” if it is not addressed.  The prison population should be cut from its current level, around 85,000, to what it was in the 1980s, around 45,000, they say in a letter to the Times:

“To restore order, security, and purpose to our jails, ministers should now make it their policy to reduce prison numbers. We want to see the prison population returned to the levels it was under Margaret Thatcher, herself no ‘soft touch’,”

Secondly is to review sentencing policy and to explore tougher alternatives to prison, possibly involving “visible” work punishments in the community, as suggested by Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, the Lord Chief Justice:

“If you are sending someone to prison for a very short time, the ability of the prison to cope with that person is limited in the current circumstances. It’s very important that you have real alternatives to prison. It’s important you have tough community sentences available … and this is something at which we really need to look.

“Should you have some really tough kind of work for [offenders] to do? Should you make the punishment visible? What’s essential is that you have a tough alternative to prison … These are things on which it would be good to have a proper open debate.”

Thirdly, young offenders up to the age of 25 should be kept out of adult prisons because of “irrefutable evidence” that the typical adult male brain is not fully formed until at least the mid-20s, MPs have said.

The House of Commons justice select committee says young adults, who make up 10% of the adult prison population but account for 30-40% of police time, should be treated differently by the criminal justice system and be held in young offender institutions with 18- to 20-year-olds.  The MPs say that the most recent evidence shows that young people are reaching adult maturity five to seven years later than they did a few decades ago, which is affecting the age at which most typically grow out of crime.

 

 

Tens of thousands of UK teenagers neglected at home, report says

Survey of year 10 pupils suggests one in seven experience some form of neglect, risking their physical and emotional health.

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A survey commissioned by the Children’s Society found that one in seven 14- and 15-year-olds had experienced at least one form of neglectful parenting, the equivalent of three to four students in every year 10 classroom.

Emotional and supervisory neglect were the joint most common forms reported by year 10 pupils and the former was associated with teenagers being more likely to engage in risky behaviour.

Those who said they had experienced emotional neglect were more than twice as likely than their peers to have got drunk recently, nearly three times as likely to have smoked and more than twice as likely to have skipped lessons.

Neglected teenagers were also significantly more likely to be dissatisfied with their lives, pessimistic about their futures and lacking confidence in their abilities. Children who reported frequent support from parents were more likely to have higher levels of wellbeing. Young people who were materially deprived were more likely to be neglected than their peers.

The Children’s Society said that the problems stem partly from an incorrect perception that teenagers needed less care and support than younger children. It wanted to see better support and advice for parents bringing up adolescents.

The Children’s Society chief executive, Matthew Reed, said:

“No child should be left feeling that no one cares about them. Teenagers are often seen as more resilient than younger children. But of course they still need care from their parents to meet their needs, support their education and keep them safe.

“Our research makes clear the central role of parental care and emotional support to the wellbeing of young people. With little dedicated advice readily available for parents of teenagers, we need to provide more support to parents bringing up teenagers, not to blame them. The government has a massive role to play in making sure the needs of teenagers, and their parents, are never forgotten. Society must not give up on teens.”

Recommendations in the report, published on Tuesday, include parenting classes for families with adolescent children, training on understanding adolescent neglect for frontline education, health and youth justice workers and more work to enable young people to recognise neglectful situations and know what help is available.

The University of York polled a representative sample of about 2,000 young people aged 12 to 15 in 72 schools for the report, asking them about their experiences of being cared for by their parents.

Number of children in poverty increased by 250,000

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The number of children living in poverty soared by 250,000 in just one year under the Conservative-led Government, new figures have shown.

HM Revenue and Customs figures obtained by the Daily Mirror show the number of children living in low-income families rose from 2.5m to 2.75m between 2013 and 2014.

This meant that during the last Coalition Government the proportion of children living in families which have fallen below the poverty line reached one in five.

The HMRC report defined children in low-income households as those from families in receipt of out-of-work benefits or those in receipt of tax credits with an income of less than 60 per cent of the national average.

It said the figures were down to rise in lower incomes failing to keep pace with the rise in higher pay and insisted the data did not reflect a real terms fall.

But campaigners accused the Government of failing to protect vulnerable children.

Woman wins year of free pizza, donates it to youth homeless centre

pizza

Hannah Spooner, a 19-year-old Detroit resident, was delighted to discover she and her boyfriend had won a year of free pizza after entering a raffle at Little Caesar’s.

But instead of keeping the pies for themselves, they donated them to Covenant House, a nonprofit that offers shelter, classes and three square meals a day to homeless, runaway and at-risk youth.

Spooner told a local FOX affiliate that she always knew she’d donate the pizza if she won — even when her boyfriend asked her whether she’d keep just a couple of pizzas for herself.

She said:

“I just know there are other people out there who have nothing.  And I don’t think I should be eating a year’s worth of free pizza when there are people who go hungry at night.”

7-year-old Syrian girl live-tweeting her life in Aleppo

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Bana is just 7 years old but she knows how to tweet.  A video posted on her Twitter account @alabedbana shows her back as she stands in front of a window, long hair flowing on a green jumper and fingers in her ears. Loud bombs can be heard in the distance, in the Aleppo night.

“Hello world, can you hear that?” she asks.

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“I am very afraid I will die tonight. This bombs will kill me now. – Bana,” she signs off.

Over the past few weeks, Bana Al-Abed and her mum Fatemah have offered a new, damning perspective on the daily life of those living under the bombs in Syria’s second city. Besieged Eastern Aleppo, controlled by rebel forces, has witnessed an unrelenting shower of bombs by Russian and Syrian military jets.

As the bombs fall, Bana and Fatemah send tweets.

One of the very first tweets depicted Bana at her desk with a book and her doll in the background. “Good afternoon from Aleppo,” the caption read. “I’m reading to forget the war.”

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Another photo showed the rubble of a bombed building and the caption: “This is my friend house bombed, she’s killed. I miss her so much.”

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Syrian children use bomb crater as makeshift swimming pool

Life under siege: Children in Aleppo use bomb crater as swimming pool

More than 2 million people in Aleppo have no access to clean water as the conflict in the Syrian city continues to escalate, according to UNICEF. But that hasn’t stopped some children from playing around in a murky pool that has formed in a crater left behind by a missile strike.

 

Children accidentally added to the menu of wedding dinner

The moment when are “kid’s menu” becomes “children on the menu” rather than “a menu for children”.

A fancy wedding accidentally made that less-than-fancy mistake on RSVP invitations they sent out. In a photo uploaded to Reddit’s r/funny, the RSVP card asks you, sir or madam, for your name, whether you’ll be attending, and whether you’d like to eat beef, pork or young children (12 and under) for the entrée.

Just check off your favorite dish, and let them know about any dietary restrictions. They’re free range, completely organic and just a bit whiny.

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Refugees’ lifejackets have been turned into a ‘graveyard’ outside parliament

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More than 2,500 lifejackets that were actually worn by migrants who crossed from Turkey into Europe were placed in front of the U.K.’s Parliament today to raise further awareness about the global migrant and refugee crisis. The project was created by various charity and humanitarian groups to correspond with a meeting of world leaders at the U.N. to discuss the ongoing crisis.

This year alone so far, at least 3,212 refugees and migrants have died attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea.  Deaths are occurring more frequently this year than in 2015, according to the most recent figures reported by the International Organization for Migration.

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The installation — which was supported by refugee charities — intends to remind leaders of “the need for solidarity with refugees” and to encourage “international responsibility sharing”.

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Celebrities recite poem about refugee crisis in powerful video

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Celebrities are taking a public stance to support the #WithRefugees campaign.

Today, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) released a video featuring several actors including Cate Blanchett, Keira Knightley, Kit Harington and Jesse Eisenberg, performing a powerful spoken word poem entitled, “What They Took With Them.”

Faith leaders call for revised refugee policy

 

rowan-williams

More than 200 leaders of faith communities have signed an open letter to the Prime Minister, Theresa May calling for urgent changes to the government’s refugee policy, particularly to allow families to be reunited.

The signatories are headed by Rowan Williams, the former archbishop of Canterbury, who will give a speech on Monday in front of an audience of faith leaders and refugees to reiterate the letter’s demands.

Elizabeth Butler-Sloss, the former lord justice of appeal, has added her name to the letter, which is also signed by leaders and representatives of the Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Sikh and Buddhist communities.

The interfaith letter follows similar initiatives by 350 judges and lawyers, who wrote to the then prime minister, David Cameron, last October; 120 senior economists in January; and 27 humanitarian and refugee organisations, also in January.