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Saturday, October 09, 2010

Jail mail

Jail mail

Ken Clarke's proposal to encourage private firms to employ prisoners at a realistic wage is an exciting one as its benefits could be wide – not only for the prisoner, but for their families (report, 5 October). These families are statistically more likely to be on low incomes, but often subsidise the prisoner's basic amenities, such as writing paper, stamps and phone calls.

Action for Prisoners' Families firmly believes that if Mr Clarke's proposals were an integral part of a prison sentence the result would be improved outcomes in homelessness (a wage would allow a prisoner to contribute to the rent of the family's home and mean that resettling prisoners are less likely to need to be housed at the expense of local authorities), economic security (the prisoner can contribute to household bills), and relationships with their partner and children, as well as easing the burden on the taxpayer.

Mr Clarke is right – as the penal reform movement and the prison inspectorate have long pointed out – the lack of meaningful activity in our system contributes to a cycle of impoverishment that the taxpayer pays for long after the prisoner has finished serving his sentence.

Jessica Berens

Communications Manager, Action For Prisoners' Families,

London SW15

After so many years of populist belief among politicians that prison is some sort of social dustbin, it is a relief to know now that the Justice Secretary, Ken Clarke, acknowledges that prison does not work.

But in applauding his suggestions to reduce the high levels of recidivism (leading article, 6 October), you omit to mention two additional moves which would bring further benefits to society generally and to many prisoners individually.

First, the rate of illiteracy among prisoners is unacceptably high, and teaching this captive audience to read and write to agreed standards, with rewards for attendance at classes, would enable many to play a much fuller part in society on their release.

Second, Mr Clarke should campaign to give prisoners the vote. This would ensure that politicians of all persuasions would take the trouble, at least at election time, to visit their new constituents. Law-makers would then have a far better idea of current conditions in prison, and would learn the extent to which prison can be made to work after all.

Christopher Martin

Kingon Langley, Wiltshire

The front page story "Prison works!" (4 October) shows that it is possible to turn people's lives around and get them off drugs. But people do not have to be sent to prison to get off drugs as this is the most expensive and least successful way of dealing with addiction. The drug treatment given to prisoners worked; prison didn't. There are hundreds of vacant drug-rehabilitation beds in the community because people can't get the funding. Too often the only way people can get into residential drug treatment is by offending. This is lunacy. Drug treatment is best delivered in the community, not in prison.

Frances Crook

Director of the Howard League for Penal Reform,

London N1

1 comment:

Digital Ignorance said...

You forget thirdly - reform of the Rehabilitation of Offenders act to offer all ex-offenders the opportunity to have their convictions spent, and combat the discrimination against ex-offenders in the employment market.