Today is one of those days where lots of people are making lots of comments on something they know nothing about. Winson Green, a category B prison in Birmingham has been on lockdown since this morning when prisoners started rioting. At this point, all anyone can rely on is media coverage which as we all know, isn’t always the most accurate of information. Did the keys get taken from a prison officer? Are prisoners spraying staff with paint? Are the pictures emerging even from today?
Many people are quick to start talking about the prisoners rioting because they don’t have a play station for Christmas and “what do they expect?” but this is NOT what this is about. These prisoners have had their freedom taken away from them and I am not saying that they shouldn’t have, they are all in there for a reason at the end of the day, but an event like today makes people sit up and listen so whilst people may say this will get them nowhere – actually, it already has. It’s in the news. People are listening. Maybe a majority of people will sit up, listen, and judge them on the basis of incorrect information and prejudices. However, there will also be some people who will sit up, listen, and realise that actually there is the need for prison reform because something isn’t working and to the prisoners, maybe that will make all this worth it. Sure, there will be those innmates who jump on the bandwagon of a riot without knowing why they are even rioting like with any other riot, but some will also be doing this because it’s the only way they feel they can have a voice.
This is not about a lack of play station or ‘fun’. This is about being treated humanely. There are many flaws with prisons and the whole prison system (as there is with most things) and this is about those flaws. The poor treatment by staff. The lack of access to the gym and library which some may see as a luxury they don’t deserve but wouldn’t you need some kind of outlet if you were locked up for 23 hours a day? If someone wants to progress in terms of learning and fitness – they should not be deprived of this. This is about much more than prisoners wanting luxury items. Prisons are supposed to be about rehabilitation. Being treated like shit for no reason by a prison guard and being denied access to the library does nothing in terms of rehabilitation.
And yes these people ARE prisoners, they HAVE done something wrong but don’t forget this is a category B prison. When talking of prisoners people often think of rapists and murderers and whilst I’m sure there are some of those offenders in there, there will also be those with drug possession charges and ABH charges for example. And don’t we all know someone who does drugs? Don’t we all know someone who has been in a fight? We all make mistakes and we should all be given the chance to change.
Whilst this ongoing riot has brought out the usual commentators who have no knowledge of what the prison system is like and those with closed minded views, it has also emphasised the need for change. It has shown that something needs to be done. Rehabilitation is what prevents future offending. Rehabilitation is not happening.