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Blog entry 15th February 2017

My February blog is somewhat late as I had been hoping to hear something from my solicitor by now.

After all, before Christmas 2016 my new barrister issued new instructions for the evidence, withheld by the police, that proves my alibi to be pursued. At the very least I expected that within two months my solicitor would have written to me confirming that he'd received these instructions and informing me of his plan of action. Ever consistent though, I've not heard a thing from my solicitor.

Whilst I understand that mine isn't the only case my solicitor will be conducting I am always left feeling that mine is the last to receive his attention.

Obviously since late 2016 the media has had extensive coverage of the crisis in the British prison system. Whilst this 'crisis' isn't the usual media hype to paint the prison system and prisoners in as bad a light as possible, it is omitting some crucial factors.

Papers such as the Daily Mail and Sun have waged campaigns for more austere and punitive prison regimes for years. The previous Secretary of State for Justice (Grayling) pandered to the press and public opinion they incited. The situation we now have in British prisons is the direct result of Grayling 'getting tough' on prisoners. Treat people like they are worthless and they will eventually conform to how they are viewed and treated.

Add in to this successive government's failures to adequately finance the prison system as it has grown and the problems escalate. This isn't just a matter of funding more uniformed staff either. Rehabilitation isn't achieved by the overly relied upon Offending Behaviour Programmes (OPB's). In truth, these courses teach criminals how to commit better crimes.

Lets look at the Sex Offender Treatment Programme or SOTP as it is known. Everyone receiving an imprisonable conviction for a sex offence will be required to attend this programme in one form or another. If we look at one section of these convictions, namely those convicted of offences against under 18's, we find a common thread that they, in the majority, find ways of forming groups, be it on the internet or otherwise, so that they can talk to each other about their crimes. This inevitably fuels their urges and drives them on to further sexual offences. Often escalating in severity and volume. So why then does the SOTP treatment method require them to continue this very behaviour that has encouraged their offending?

A key component of the SOTP is for the prisoner to openly discuss in a group forum exactly how they have committed their sex-offence. Oh and incidentally, the guy who developed SOTP originally went on to be imprisoned for sex offences.

Nor does these issues only apply to SOTP. The 'Think is Skills Programme' (TSP) is known by prisoners as the 'How to Commit Better Crime Programme'. This is because it teaches them to plan and think ahead. If you doubt what I am saying the Home Office's own statistics show that those 'successfully' completing OBPs have higher re-offending rates than those prisoners who haven't entered on to OBPs.

Rehabilitation will only be achieved if a prisoner, regardless of offence, can return to society better educated (and I don't mean to the level of an 11 year old), with the realistic prospect of employment and, knowing that society is not going to reject them for having been imprisoned. To do this prisons need to become training colleges. Prisoners need to be given responsibility in the form of proper adult education to at least A-level standard and given properly paid work that leaves them with viable employment skills and a sense of self-worth.

Until the public en-masse require and insist upon this from their government nothing will improve, prison numbers will continue to grow and re-offending will continue to rise.

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