Guy Opperman was a Criminal Barrister for over 15 years engaged in many murder and other trials. He became the MP for Hexham in 2010. His book “Doing Time” – Prisons in the 21st Century is available in all bookshops, and on Amazon /Kindle. Proceeds go to an NHS charity, the National Brain Appeal.
Follow Guy on Twitter.
Prison does work. It locks people up so that the prisoner cannot then commit a crime: yet prison for decades has failed to change the prisoner’s behaviour. I am not against sending people to prison. I spent over 15 years doing that as a criminal prosecutor. But it is what we do with the prisoner when they are in prison that needs to change. It is this issue that I have addressed in my new book, “Doing Time” – Prisons in the 21st Century.
The harsh fact is that over the last 20 years, despite multiple new laws, and successive politicians passing tougher and tougher sentences, the prison population has doubled with reoffending rates at approximately 70%. Given that we spend at least £45,000 a year on adult prisoners, and around £100,000 on young offenders, we have to accept that the taxpayer is getting a poor return when 7 out of 10 former prisoners are reoffending upon release.
The reasons are obvious: 50 % of all prisoners are illiterate, 50% are drug addicted, over half of all prisoners were excluded from school, have no skills, and ran away from home, and 25% of all prisoners were in care as children. It is clear that parenting, education and society has failed the vast majority of those in custody. How we treat them in prison will decide how such people – who clearly struggle to cope with the normal aspects of society – will fare upon their release.