Barbed wire pic by Terry Freeman, from Flickr

Barbed wire pic by Terry Freeman, from Flickr

A system in crisis again, the state of UK prisons are as bad now as they were at the time of one of Britain’s worst jail riots, the former most senior judge in England has warned. ‘Prisoners are again being kept in conditions that we should not tolerate’, Lord Woolf explained in an interview with the BBC, calling for a new investigation into the state of the country’s jails. 

‘They [prisoners] are a long way from home and their families can’t keep in touch with them – a whole gamut of things that need to be done and that’s why I would welcome a thorough re-look at the situation and above all trying to take prisons out of politics.’
Lord Woolf, former Lord Chief Justice 

The 1990 riot at Strangeways prison in Manchester resulted in two deaths, hundreds of injuries and £55m worth of damage. The riot sparked disturbances in jails across the country after which Lord Woolf headed a public inquiry into the conditions in prisons, which he concluded were ‘intolerable’, and recommended a major reform of the system. The former lord chief justice has now said conditions are no better than they were during this time.

Arguing more needs to be done to stop prisoners committing crime once released, Woolf said: ‘People’s re-offending behaviour has not been tackled.’ 

‘Apart from a very small minority, everyone who is in prison is going to come out one day and we should make sure that when they come out they can be properly turned away from crime and can be properly habilitated. I believe that the public want to feel safer and I don’t think they would want to take steps to be tough on crime if it made them even more vulnerable to crime and that is the difficulty and that’s where unfortunately I’m afraid I didn’t win the argument. What is needed is someone who’s younger and more energetic to do another review of the prisons and take the prison situation out of politics.’
Lord Woolf, former Lord Chief Justice

Last week a parliamentary report warned that Government cuts have made a ‘significant contribution to the deterioration in safety’ within prisons. After a year-long inquiry, the cross-party House of Commons Justice Committee aired their concerns over the level of safety in prisons, including a rise in prison assaults and suicides, something that they accused Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling, of ‘publicly downplaying’ the significance of. 


Author: Brooke Perriam

BA Journalism undergraduate (third year), writer and reporter.

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