Not in my backyard

May 28, 2009 by
Filed under: Education Matters 

Let’s be honest; the idea of a prison holding 1500 individuals who have committed a range of crimes being built in your community is not the most appealing.  So when I switched onto the news last night and learnt that Dagenham was on the verge of protest against a proposed new private prison it didn’t come as a shock.  And when a journo asks a woman on the street randomly “would you be happy with your kids playing in the garden with a prison next door?” you’re hardly astounded by the response “no way. We don’t want it anywhere near us, it’s not safe” (nb: not verbatim!).

My personal view is that the outrage should be about the fact that these huge prisons are still being planned.  We should be reducing the prison population, not providing the space to increase it.

But if they’re going to happen then we need to make the best of it and that means having prisons that not only keep communities safe, but also cater to a range of community needs.  I wonder how residents in Dagenham would feel if they knew more about prisons, how they operated and actually visited one.  Fran and I were always keen on setting up a ‘Visit a Prison’ scheme but felt it was a little beyond the scope of the PLN – perhaps the relevant government departments (Schools? Community? MoJ? Home Office?) should have a go.

We know that when presented with objective factual information the general public are far less punitive and have fewer objections to the incentive schemes or variety of programmes that operate in prisons.  Imagine if more were able to see firsthand how they work rather than rely on the media to provide information which is focussed primarily on the negative and sensational.  The news stories about the Dagenham dispute, for example keeps mentioning the possibility of prisoners escaping.

“No prison is escape-proof”.

I don’t mean to dismiss this, but come on.  Arguably, people in prison are people who just happen to have been caught.  Does that make them anymore dangerous than those on the streets, on the bus or tube, in the café round the corner or living down your road who may have also committed a crime – just one they haven’t been caught for?

Comments

  • http://rsaartsandecology.org.uk/ William

    As no government seems to want to do anything about prison populations beyond increasing it, you would have thought that local communities would welcome having a recession-proof industry in their neighbourhood.

  • http://rsaartsandecology.org.uk William

    As no government seems to want to do anything about prison populations beyond increasing it, you would have thought that local communities would welcome having a recession-proof industry in their neighbourhood.

  • http://www.facebook.com/The.Mark.of.Zorro Dominic Pinto

    Hmmmmm – it isn’t the case that no government will not want to – even in the liberal and progressive state of Kanasas the light has clicked on – that just building more prisons and imprisoning more isn’t working, and the cost just keeps escalating. I was on the periphery of a campaign against a prison (private, but it could be state) in Wythe County Virginia, and there has been another more recently in the state. Prisons dominate, even in rural areas; they tend to provide low-level employment; and they consume resources, like water, in short supply. They are non-productive, and do not enhance the community. Having lived near to a prison before I can testify to the stultifying effects …. and as prisons tend to be built where demand is, it hardly brings up or regenerates the area.

    Visiting prisons isn’t so difficult, though security clearances may take a long time, and each prison tends to have its own procedures.

  • http://www.facebook.com/The.Mark.of.Zorro Dominic Pinto

    Hmmmmm – it isn’t the case that no government will not want to – even in the liberal and progressive state of Kanasas the light has clicked on – that just building more prisons and imprisoning more isn’t working, and the cost just keeps escalating. I was on the periphery of a campaign against a prison (private, but it could be state) in Wythe County Virginia, and there has been another more recently in the state. Prisons dominate, even in rural areas; they tend to provide low-level employment; and they consume resources, like water, in short supply. They are non-productive, and do not enhance the community. Having lived near to a prison before I can testify to the stultifying effects …. and as prisons tend to be built where demand is, it hardly brings up or regenerates the area.

    Visiting prisons isn’t so difficult, though security clearances may take a long time, and each prison tends to have its own procedures.