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19 How. J. Penology & Crime Prevention 1 (1980)

handle is hein.journals/hjcj19 and id is 1 raw text is: 









The Howard Journal Volume XIX 1980. pp. 1-8


League Leader

(A Column   of individual comments on current issues contributed by the
Director of the Howard  League for  Penal Reform, by members  of the
Council of the League, or by the Editors of the Howard Journal.)

Dis-May
   The Report of the May Committee  on prisons has to be considered on
two  levels: whether it will meet union demands   for better pay and
recognition, and whether it will stimulate prison reforms. It is therefore
difficult to comment on the Report (Committee of Inquiry 1979), because
this Journal must go to press almost immediately after its publication, but
will not be published for over two months. If in the meantime the relevant
unions  are not satisfied and resort to drastic industrial action, a very
serious situation could arise which could set back reform for a long time.
The  Report does suggest that there should be agreements as to forms of
industrial action that are illegitimate (para. 10.49), and we can only hope
that branches and individual members of the Prison Officers' Association
(P.O.A.) will not take action which would cause hardship to prisoners or
their families, or damage staff/inmate relations.
   The document  says enough  of the right things about penal policy to
enable the Home  Secretary to quote it in support of progressive measures if
he has a mind to; but it puts little pressure on him to do so. The committee
had a rare opportunity to give powerful reinforcement to those who, with
the Howard   League,  have been pressing for fewer and shorter prison
sentences. It agrees, but instead of calling for a determined policy of
reducing the prison population, it says limply that numbers will probably
continue to be substantial (para. 3.72). It has failed to insist that each area
should have an adequate range of non-custodial methods of dealing with
minor offenders before money is poured into new prison building: this was
the first recommendation  of the Howard  League  (1979b), although of
course we accept that the old prison slums need to be made habitable, or
replaced by new  institutions which are not at the back of beyond. The
Report could have made  a firm statement of principle that petty offenders
should not be sent to prison, but waters this down by adding wherever
possible (para. 3.49). It meekly accepts that there are no larger-scale
resources for . . . a shift back to the probation order (para. 3.51) but,
noting that in the case of prisons the money may be found when  it is
judged desirable (para. 6.91), it proposes doubling capital expenditure on
prison building to a total of some three-quarters of a billion pounds over
the next 15 years. This arithmetic is based on the assumption that numbers
will remain at least at their present level, so that for example the 5,50.0
places taken up by providing integral sanitation in cells could only be
made  good by new construction of about 12 new prisons, with another 20
to eliminate cell-sharing (para. 6.84). Yet the report itself points out that
Category B and C prisons cost E40,000 and E20,000 per place, respectively,
compared  with E23,000 for a purpose-built detoxification centre place and
E7,000 and E4,000 respectively for converted places in probation hostels


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