How can we support people in prison to improve their chances for a positive future out of prison? 

A lot of social and print media comment, some of it very angry, about the release on parole of one prisoner who has been inside for more than thirty years following horrific crimes.  The media appear to believe that they know better how to manage such cases. They do not. 

I served on the Parole Board and knew how much care is taken over these very difficult decisions. Whilst the view of families harmed by the offences committed is considered, the duty of the Board is to assess the risk of harm to the public and how it can safely be managed in the community, if, indeed, they consider this to be safe. However, there has been little or no media coverage about the effect of Covid19 on programmes inside prisons to address the causes of offending, or the fact that much of this vital work has been suspended.  Men and women in prison often arrive in prison with a whole host of background circumstances which explain – not excuse – the reasons for their poor behaviour. Staff who organise courses in prisons to address the causes of patterns of offending, almost always report on inadequate family life, substance abuse, low levels of literacy and social skills, homelessness, unemployment, poor health and much more. Unless something changes during a prison sentence, the likelihood of reoffending remains high. So, we need our media to say that imprisonment should only be the last resort, that once inside, the resources to address the causes and consequences of offending behaviour, must be properly funded and supported. Most people in prison are inadequate, unfocussed, uncared for and lacking the necessary skills to succeed.

The work of MCF in prisons is vital in building confidence, skills, and self-respect and the determination to avoid reoffending. We need much much more of it. Ask your MP to concentrate on the 84,000 people in prison who need help to avoid returning to their bad old ways, and not on the one who generates media hysteria. Most of the people in prison are not like him.  Some hopes!