Letter: Out of prison

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The Independent Culture
Sir: The point by Mrs Radice (letter, 7 July) that life-sentence prisoners are ill prepared for life outside is well made, but it doesn't just apply to life-sentence prisoners, some of whom do less time inside than those serving long-term determinate sentences.

There are 65,000 people locked up in our prisons and sooner or later all but 24 of them will be released. For decades the Prison Service has wrongly concentrated on the "front end" of a prison sentence and the closer the prisoner gets to his release date the less need he is seen as having.

Each year we release about 90,000 prisoners into society, all of whom are expected to hit the ground running. But many trip up on their laces and return to prison because they are ill-prepared for life outside. Unlock wants to provide all prisoners with a "discharge pack" crammed with information and issued during an intensive pre-release course.

The Prison Service is engaged in a review of inmate development and pre- release courses, and Unlock has been engaged in a consultancy capacity. The preparation for release of prisoners is crucial to the fight against crime and particularly repeat offending.

The Prison Service is now on the right track, though the recent comment by an official that prisoners are "the scum of the earth" shows that they have a considerable distance to go.

MARK LEECH

Chairman, Unlock - The National Association of Ex-Offenders

Maidstone, Kent

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