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.