HMP Birmingham

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.

Something we know all too well but others may not

It is very easy (and comforting) to assume that those who commit crimes go to prison and those who don’t carry on their lives on the outside. Unfortunately, it has been acknowledged that actually, eye witness testimonies are fairly inaccurate. Additionally, police and others involved in the process have been found to be no better than the average person at detecting who is lying and who is telling the truth – often using stereotypes to make decisions. Lie detector tests are also fairly unreliable and so at the minute there are very limited resources to pin point who has done what when it comes to crime. 

This means that people who shouldn’t be in prison sometimes are and people who should be sometimes aren’t. Your average person is unlikely to know the facts and shocking statistics surrounded this issue and so will often laugh if you talk of innocent men and women being locked up – people don’t think it happens. Whilst a majority of those in prisons are there because they have reason to be, statistically there must also be some innocent people amongst them. I have heard many stories myself and whilst it might be small numbers in comparison to the success rate of imprisoning the correct people, that small minority will have their lives potentially ruined. 

It is something that is an issue and more people should be made aware.

Send a Christmas message

insidetime

Inside Time, the newspaper for prisoners is allowing people to send in their Christmas messages for their loved ones. Messages will be published in the newspaper and delivered to the prisoner at Christmas time.

Messages can be up to 25 words and need sending to lf@insidetime.org

You need to include your name and number and the address of your loved one (prison address including their name and prison number).

The closing date for submitting messages is the 18th November.

Conjugal visits petition

A lovely lady called Jade Swindle has started a petition to legalise conjugal visits in the UK. Conjugal visits are periods of time where an inmate is allowed to spend hours/days in private with (usually) their partner. Currently, conjugal visits are used in a variety of countries such as the Turkey and Spain with the aim of preserving special bonds between couples and encouraging good behaviour by using the visits as incentives. They are held in special rooms or buildings and may provide items such as towels and condoms – sex is permitted. The current UK equivalent is the use of day visits where an inmate is allowed out for a day or perhaps a weekend without being supervised but Jade has started the petition for those loved ones of UK prisoners who feel that conjugal visits should be implemented here. As it stands, petitions need 10,000 signatures for a response from parliament and 100,000 to be considered for debate in parliament but every law change starts somewhere!
If you would like to sign the petition yourself you can find the link here: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/171447