Letter: Deterioration of prison conditions, public and private

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The Independent Online
Sir: Your article by the prison worker exposed the horror and futility of prison life ('No way out for HM's inmates', 15 February).

This country grossly over-uses prison for people waiting to go to trial, and as a sentence. Your excellent leading article on the same day drew attention to the thousands of fine defaulters being sent to prison unnecessarily. Each year 3,000 children aged 16 or under, 3,500 mothers, and tens of thousands of petty offenders experience prison. For them there is misery and enforced separation from family and community. Prison offers them punishment and nothing else.

Rehabilitation is now a concept that applies merely to limiting the damage done by prison itself. The Government must remove prison from the centre of the criminal justice system and encourage the use of constructive community responses to crime. As it is, prison is feeding the crime problem, and is not a solution to it.




The Howard League

London, N19

15 February