Bit of variety today. I ended up at the Open Day for the new Visitors’ Centre at Perth Prison. This has play facilities for children and space for family members – many of whom will have travelled long distances – to wait either for their visiting time or for their transport home. I have had a bit of contact with the world of prisons over the years – mostly as a member of the Board of Visitors at Crumlin Road Prison in Belfast. That was interesting – is that the right word? – because the prisoners were mainly paramilitaries who did not regard themselves as criminals and had their own command structure, etc., within the prison. I found the conditions in Perth Prison pretty bad when I visited last year – the present rebuilding programme should improve things considerably. But what I really can’t cope with is the number of people whom we lock up in this society. It just can’t be right.
I have to agree with you there, the high levels of people entering into our prison system is getting to a point where it is crucial to be looking at something “alternative” rather than custodial sentences for lesser offences, particularly with issues of overcrowding and ‘prison boats’ on the horizon! I worked in england for a number of years and within the criminal justice system for drug misusers and prolific offenders, and there are great alternatives to custodial sentences for petty crime, but supportive mechanisms and systems in place to ensure that people are encouraged and guided not to re-enter the ‘prison population’ – I also agree wtih you on the state of some of our prisons, I have spent many a day working on the wings of prisons, and some are far from what I would consider a ‘reasonable standard’!
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