You previously led the Church’s work with women’s prisons. How do you find men’s prisons different?
What strikes me straight away when I go into female prisons is the very obvious vulnerability and how many women are in there for non-violent crimes. We know so many of those women have been victims of abuse themselves. That makes it sound like men aren’t vulnerable, and of course every prisoner is vulnerable in a different way. A lot of men are in prison for more violent crimes, for more serious crimes, but there are those who don’t need to be in prison.
The Government is proposing to build 20,000 new prison places, including 500 for women. It could take the prison population in England and Wales up from 80,000 to 100,000. How do you feel about that?
I’ll be brutally honest here; I would say the criminal justice system is broken. That doesn’t mean there aren’t lots of good people working in it – I’m not being negative about everyone. But I think that saying we’re going to create lots of new places, for men and women, is a big admission that we haven’t got this right.
I heard a story the other day of a man in prison who is willing to say he has anger issues, but in two years he hasn’t been able to access any anger management. We’re not coping with the rehabilitation and education part of prison even as it stands. How is adding a whole load of new places going to reduce reoffending?
For me, it’s about how we are really looking at the issues causing these problems in the first place.
— The Church of England (@churchofengland) March 26, 2015