JUSTICE Legal Director, Jodie Blackstock, is one of several signatories to an open letter, published by the Guardian on 26 January 2017. It calls for an immediate moratorium on prison construction in the UK and a national debate about how to build a safer society and secure communities.
The letter reads:
Wednesday’s opposition day debate on prisons served to highlight the ongoing crisis in the system. At the same time, the government’s “prison-building revolution” is gathering pace, with plans to expand prison capacity by at least 10,000 places. This appears to be a revival of the “Titan prisons” policy opposed by penal reformers and mothballed in 2009. It should be halted immediately. For example, the new prison recently proposed for the site of HMP Wellingborough will more than treble its capacity to 1,600 and grand claims have been made about the opportunities that this will bring in terms of local jobs and financial investment. These plans are being rushed through without full public scrutiny and democratic debate.
The numbers of people criminalised and sent to prison have already spiralled out of control to a record high. Yet prisons do very little to address the needs of people experiencing harm or violence. Building more prisons is not the answer to the current acknowledged failings of the existing system. Rather than investing £1.3bn in building new prisons, the government should be prioritising policies that radically reduce the number of people in prison. This could include meaningful jobs, social housing, healthcare, education, transport – for all.
We are calling for an immediate moratorium on prison construction and a national debate about how to build a safer society and secure communities instead of continuing with a failed policy of criminal justice expansion. We need to build safe and healthy communities – not prisons.