Inside from the Outside — Dr Murray Wilson — 28th September 2015.

Dr Murray com­menced his talk with a couple of pic­tures of a) a cruise ship, and b) a prison ship the ana­logy being that you couldn’t escape from either!

His present­a­tion was to do with pris­ons which I ought to know a lot about as my niece is a prison officer at Bristol prison.  However the stor­ies she told me about prison life were a lot more col­our­ful than the ones  painted by Dr Wilson!

Dr Wilson is a member of Wakefield  IMB (the Independent Monitoring Board ) a vol­un­tary organisation,whose work is un-paid, and for 2 to 3 days a month, the mem­bers mon­itor the day to day life in their local prison and ensure that proper stand­ards of care and decency are main­tained. Any person can apply to join IMB- their duties include inspec­tion of kit­chens, prison segreg­a­tion issues and prison health care. They can also hear com­plaints and observe remis­sion applic­a­tions.

He said that TV shows such as “Porridge” gave a fair insight into prison life. Some inmate’s fam­il­ies regard  prison vis­it­ing as a “Day Out”; a crèche is provided for moth­ers along with  vari­ous perks . In some areas it is regarded as “normal” to be in prison as many family mem­bers  have served time. He said that 1 in 14 chil­dren had a parent who had at some time been in prison.

Prison Visitors” is another stat­utory body   where people elect to go into prison and befriend one or two pris­on­ers.

What goes on in pris­ons is over­seen by:

  • a) HMCIP (Her Majesty’s Chief Inspectorate of Prisons)
  • b) The Ombudsman
  • c) The Government

These organ­isa­tions report annu­ally on the con­di­tions and treat­ment for those in prison, pro­mot­ing   the concept of “Healthy Prisons” in which staff work effect­ively to sup­port pris­on­ers and reduce re-offending, or achieve other agreed out­comes. Apart from  the above three organ­isa­tions , the courts and the  soli­cit­ors of inmates also  play a part. The  IMB organ­isa­tion can visit pris­ons daily, but Dr Wilson stated that its power is lim­ited.

What are Prisons  for ?  

  • They are for:
  • 1. A pun­ish­ment
  • 2.  A deterrent
  • 3.   Rehabilitation

Dr Wilson asked us who are the bene­fi­ciar­ies of crime?  A strange ques­tion we thought.

It seems an awful  lot of money could be saved if no one ever com­mit­ted a crime.  We would not need police  (£10 mil­lion saved ), law­yers, pro­ba­tion officers, court offi­cials and judges ( earn­ing well over £100,000 p.a. each).  £530,000,000 is spent on judges fees (not includ­ing their pen­sions). No wonder that so many stu­dents wish to study law at uni­ver­sity!   There would be no Legal Aid needed, insur­ance com­pan­ies would lose a lot of busi­ness and mil­lions would be saved by not build­ing and main­tain­ing pris­ons!

Dr Murray said that out of a UK pop­u­la­tion of 63 mil­lion there are 86,000 pris­on­ers and 140 pris­ons. He estim­ated that 1 in every 745 people go to prison and this figure could be many more except that the police ignore 50% of minor crimes.

It costs £140,000 per year to keep a pris­oner in prison at Wakefield and some pris­on­ers are happy to be in prison as they have their own cell, own key, TV and Sky; have in cell dining, en-suite facil­it­ies and all meals provided.

He said it is thought that 1 in 10 prison officers were cor­rupt and facil­it­ated the smug­gling in of mobile phones and drugs. He also said that in some pris­ons, inmates actu­ally  run them  them­selves by instilling fear into the gov­ernors, threat­en­ing to use crim­inal law­yers to defend their rights. Thus the gov­ernor has to con­sider how this would look and affect his career.

I do not think that a spell in prison would be good for me per­son­ally, but I do com­mend Dr Murray for all the work he does in ensur­ing that pris­on­ers  have proper care and help when needed.