Category Archives: Prisons

Education professionals rubbish Williamson’s claim Covid has worsened behaviour in English schools

Wearing the dunce’s cap yet again: Gavin Williamson was happy to deliberately endanger your children by reopening schools at the height of the Covid crisis (he was forced to close them again when the demand for him to do so became overwhelming. Now he’s happy to falsely criminalise them – in order to satisfy a new profit-making market he is creating?

The Tory Education Secretary’s unevidenced claim that discipline in English schools has “inevitably” worsened after a year of lockdowns has been dismissed as nonsense by people who actually work with school pupils.

Gavin Williamson intends to impose a national network of “behaviour hubs” to spread “best practice” among schools and teachers.

But it seems there is absolutely no need for them. Why is the Tory minister so keen to force them on our schools, and on our children?

Is it anything to do with his new network of “secure schools” – prisons for youngsters – to be run by private firms as “charitable” enterprises?

But Mark Russell, the chief executive of the Children’s Society, told The Guardian:

“We are not aware of any evidence that their behaviour is worse, and our practitioners report that on the whole young people have been relieved to get back inside the classroom.”

Mary Bousted, a joint leader of the National Education Union, said:

“With all the challenges currently facing schools, playing to the gallery by talking tough on behaviour is the least useful approach the education secretary can take.”

Wes Streeting, Labour’s Shadow Schools Minister, also said something – but we are already aware that he is an extremely suspect character himself so it is best to pass him by.

Stuart Lock is chief executive of the Advantage Schools trust, which includes one of the 22 schools named as hubs. Even he disagreed with Williamson’s claims:

“I don’t believe classroom behaviour has got worse than it was before the pandemic. It is probably a bit better.”

Even the man leading the new project – Tom Bennett, the DfE’s lead adviser on behaviour – has said there is no evidence of worsened behaviour:

“To be honest, the picture on behaviour we’re seeing is reasonably consistent with the behaviour we were seeing before the pandemic.”

So why has Williamson suddenly falsified a claim that our kids have all gone feral, and started wasting our money on a project to correct behaviour that hasn’t gone bad?

Well, there is this new “secure schools” aspect of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill:

Secure schools are essentially a re-branding of Young Offenders Institutions that allows private organisations to run them.

The government says it is building “schools with security, not prisons with education” but as Zahra Bei wrote in 2019, “the policy of rebranding youth jails as ‘secure schools’ provides a thinly-veiled disguise for what in essence marks the start of the biggest children’s prison expansion programme in Britain”.

Members of the British Association of Social Workers have called the plans “a penal approach rooted in the past”.

The contract for the first secure school was awarded to academy chain Oasis, which has one of the highest rates of personal exclusions in the UK.

It will be on the site of the former Medway Secure Training Centre in Kent, which was described as “a site of violence and abuse that prevented the young people who were held there from accessing learning and freedom”.

After a dispute arose over whether running a child prison could be considered a suitable activity for a charity, the government wrote clauses into its new Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill to ensure that running a child prison can be considered a charitable activity in law.

The change will encourage more academy chains to be providers, creating what the Tories no doubt hope will be a profitable market. And the use of charities will put distance between the Tory government and anything that happens there.

You can read further information on the “secure schools” project here.

With a new market opening up for the detention (and mistreatment?) of children, it seems clear that the organisations running it will want a supply of children.

And suddenly Gavin Williamson is talking about poor behaviour in schools. Convenient?

Source: Experts reject claim Covid has worsened behaviour in English schools | Pupil behaviour | The Guardian

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Extended jail term plan will lead to disaster

Behind bars: Boris Johnson’s plan for extended jail terms – stretching overstrained prisons beyond their limits – is criminal. But Johnson seems immune to punishment.

Conservatives can’t run prisons.

We all know this – right?

They tried privatising prisons and the cuts imposed by the privateers (in order to make a profit) meant wardens could not keep control.

Consider the failure to control drug use or even to stop drugs being passed into prisons.

Overcrowding led to unrest and even the occasional riot.

Now Boris Johnson has announced an intention to extend jail terms, meaning even more people will be packed into our limited prison space.

Or is he going to build more (like he promised to build more hospitals)?

Even if he achieved this – and I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting – would he not simply turn them over to private companies that would cock it all up again?

Yes, of course he would.

The UK’s prime minister is deliberately plotting a disaster for the justice system.

Or is there evidence that I am mistaken?

Source: Watchdog warns of prison overcrowding as Boris Johnson vows to extend jail terms | The Independent

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Did disablist bullying lead to the death of this prisoner?

Dead: Liridan Saliuka was pronounced dead after being found on the floor of his prison cell. Was it the result of disablist bullying?

The Prisons and Probation Ombudsman is to investigate after a disabled man was found dead in a cell – possibly after being bullied.

Liridon Saliuka was found in his cell in Belmarsh Prison on January 2. The Prison service confirmed he had died.

He had been imprisoned on remand, charged with murder – although he had protested his innocence and intention to clear his name.

He underwent extensive reconstructive surgery after a car crash two years ago, and was given metal plates that made it difficult for him to walk or stand still for long periods.

A surgeon’s report had concluded that he should be considered as “permanently disabled”.

But this seems to have been ignored by the minions of Her Majesty’s Government, who moved him from a special cell – with an orthopaedic mattress – to a standard cell.

His sister Dita reported that he had said this was so uncomfortable for him that he was sleeping on the floor.

She also said the claim by the authorities that his death was self-inflicted is unlikely to be true, as he had always said people who committed suicide were weak and selfish.

Isn’t this just further evidence of disablist discrimination by the Tory government and its minions?

Source: Investigation after prisoner found dead in cell at Belmarsh | UK news | The Guardian

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Johnson and Patel’s police state takes shape

Priti Patel and Boris Johnson: They’re telling us they want to restore law and order – but are they simply planning for the effects of a ‘no deal’ Brexit or positioning for a general election?

Boris Johnson has announced a tightening of security in prisons, to go with yesterday’s increase in funding for lawyers to deal with violent crime cases, and a review – and toughening – of  prison sentences.

This Writer cannot help but notice that these announcements, along with a plan to build more prisons, are arriving alongside news that the UK’s economy has hit a downturn.

Economic activity fell in the second quarter of 2019 – for the first time since 2012. And unemployment has risen by 31,000.

Is Boris Johnson planning for unrest after a ‘no deal’ Brexit that harms jobs and our way of life?

Well, no. The worst part of this is that he probably isn’t.

The one-off payment of £100 million might help in the short term, but Labour’s shadow justice secretary Richard Burgon has described it as “tinkering at the edges”.

And the Howard League for Penal Reform said prisons have become centres of crime and violence and drugs, and the Tory government need to “pour good money after bad” (provide continuous funding) to solve a problem it has created.

The Crown Prosecution Service will receive £85 million to help it prosecute violent offenders – but the Criminal Bar Association has said that this will not seriously improve a system that has been “severely underfunded” by Conservative governments of the last nine years.

It has led to a situation in which “those who commit crime walk free and the innocent risk being convicted”, the organisation has said.

These claims follow assertions that the promise of 10,000 new prison places will not be enough; courts will order criminals to serve tougher sentences before those places become available, meaning that there will still be too few.

We can only conclude that these announcements do not indicate a serious commitment to tackle crime.

So why make them?

One theory is that the prime minister we call BoJob is trying to discourage people from participating in civil unrest if a ‘no deal’ Brexit takes place on October 31.

The thinking would be that a show of sabre-rattling now might reduce violence later.

But we’re being told that, even with the new funding, the authorities would not be equipped to deal with such unrest. So that plan has backfired.

The alternative – and far more likely – is that these announcements are simply attempts to position the Conservatives as the “Party of Law and Order” once more in the run-up to an autumn election.

The government has denied any intention of calling an election – which of course makes it more likely in the mind of a general public that is used to Tories who say one thing and then do another.

And of course there is a possibility that Mr Johnson will be forced into an election after an early vote of no confidence in his government.

September 9 is the date this is most likely to happen, we’re told – less than a month away.

Make a note in your diary.

Source: Prisons: Boris Johnson pledges £100m to boost security – BBC News

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Johnson announces new prison places and extension of stop/search police powers. Why?

Is this just electioneering?

An extra 10,000 new prison places will be created and stop-and-search powers expanded, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has promised.

The first new prison in the £2.5bn programme will be at HMP Full Sutton in Yorkshire, where expansion plans have previously been announced.

Last month, the government also pledged to recruit 20,000 extra police officers, nearly replacing the number of officers lost since the Conservatives returned to power.

But the 20,000 new police places were quickly debunked; the additions will add nothing to police ranks once natural wastage has been taken into account.

The Ministry of Justice has already said it was on course to create 3,360 places at two new prisons by 2023 and the Prison Reform Trust said the suggestion that all 10,000 newly-announced places really were new was “misleading” given earlier announcements.

The trust said prisons needed 12,000 more places just to eliminate overcrowding and accommodate new prisoners who have already been sentenced – and the announcement would increase the use of imprisonment before the capacity to provide it had been created.

As for stop-and-search powers – these had been reined in by Theresa May’s government after it was revealed that they are sometimes misused and that they disproportionately target black people – who were 9.5 times more likely to be searched than white people.

Now, a pilot scheme making it easier for police to search people without reasonable suspicion, in places where serious violence may occur, is being extended to all 43 forces across England and Wales.

But the results of the pilot scheme are not fully known yet. It is possible that the new measure will expose innocent citizens to even more abuse.

And this is the reason some commentators believe these pledges are just electioneering ploys.

They believe it is more likely that Boris Johnson wants his government to present the appearance of being tough on crime, in order to gain an electoral advantage.

The aim may be to contrive a public relations victory – painting the Tories as the “Party of Law and Order” once again, while Labour would be cast as opponents of these measures.

But Labour has in fact been calling for action to tackle violent crime for a considerable period of time.

The all-party Parliamentary group on knife crime was founded (and is chaired) by Labour MP Sarah Jones.

When she appeared on BBC Radio 4’s Westminster Hour on Sunday evening (August 11), it seemed clear that she did not approve of the measures announced by Mr Johnson and his Home Secretary, Priti Patel.

So perhaps this is just an election strategy. We’ll find out soon.

Source: PM to create 10,000 new prison places and extend stop-and-search – BBC News

As Nazanin ends 15-day hunger strike over imprisonment, Johnson tries to shift the blame

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe.

Boris Johnson really is a blight on the United Kingdom and an embarrassment internationally.

The Tory leadership candidate – who may become prime minister on July 22 – has tried to wriggle out from his responsibility for worsening the plight of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who has been imprisoned in Iran on a false charge of spying since 2016.

He actually had the nerve to say that those criticising him are trying to excuse the Iranian authorities who wrongly locked her up!

For clarity (and this is according to Sky News): “As foreign secretary, he incorrectly stated that she was “teaching people journalism” in Iran despite relatives insisting she was visiting family. Mr Johnson’s comments were seized on by the Tehran regime and used against the charity worker, who remains in prison.”

Iranian officials cited his words as evidence that she had engaged in “propaganda against the regime”.

Mr Johnson told Sky News: “I feel sorry for her, for her daughter, for her husband Richard and I’ve said this many, many times. I feel a deep sense of anguish for what she has been going through.

“When it comes to responsibility for what she is suffering I think that is incredibly important that we in the UK do not unwittingly give aid and succour to the people who are really responsible – which is not the Foreign Office, not the former foreign secretary, and no one in London is responsible for incarcerating Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe.

“The people who are responsible are the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, and anything you do to exculpate them is, I think, a great shame.”

Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe and her husband Richard have both just ended a simultaneous 15-day hunger strike in protest against her imprisonment. Mr Ratcliffe hit back at the Tory leadership candidate, according to The Observer:

“Of course it’s not all [Johnson’s] fault,” said Mr Ratcliffe. “Clearly we are camped here [outside the Iranian embassy] because the Iranian authorities are imprisoning Nazanin, but he should take responsibility for his mistakes because they have consequences.

“Not just the gaffe – the failure to apologise afterwards clearly made things worse.

“I think it’s bad for a candidate not to take responsibility for their mistakes because the most important thing for a prime minister is to take responsibility for their country.”

With the election in which he hopes to become Tory leader yet to take place, one hopes the Conservative Party’s membership pays attention to this stain on the character of this candidate.

One fears they may ignore it. If so, will it be another clear indication that Tories are racists?

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Tories are working hard to make prisons ripe for privatisation – the rats are already there

What’s the line by the great Noam Chomsky about privatisation? “Defund, make sure things don’t work, people get angry, you hand it over to private capital.”

HM Prison Bedford seems a textbook example of this behaviour.

According to reports in many newspapers (this one‘s from The Guardian), one inmate caught and killed multiple rats in his cell during an inspection, while another – who had disabilities – was in a cell with no adaptations and had been provided with a wheelchair that could not be self-propelled and was therefore almost utterly useless.

Chief Inspector of Prisons Peter Clarke reported that two years of efforts to improve standards had failed, and they were continuing to decline.

In addition to the references to the disabled prisoner and the rat-catcher, he also referred to cells as “filthy and decrepit” and warned that the toilets did not flush properly.

Self-harm had increased substantially and there had been five self-inflicted deaths since the previous inspection in 2016.

Almost half of prisoners surveyed said it was easy to get illicit drugs, and a fifth said that they had developed a drug problem while in the jail. The smell of cannabis and other burning substances pervaded some wings, with one officer saying: “If it’s just cannabis, it’s a good day.”

And there was a serious lack of control on the wings as prison officers were inexperienced and struggled to exert authority over prisoners who did not obey basic rules or conform to expected behaviour.

What happened to all the experienced staff, I wonder?

They were probably retired by the Ministry of Justice in a cost-cutting exercise.

Of course Tory cuts have caused the harm that we see. Bedford was reportedly an exemplary prison in 2008 – under a Labour government – but then the Tories turned up, cut funding to the bone, and chaos ensued. Bedford was the location of a riot involving 200 inmates in November 2016.

So we see a prison service drained of funds, that is no longer fit for purpose. It certainly doesn’t even try to rehabilitate inmates any more, meaning when sentences are served, hardened criminals are released onto our streets, who know that the punishment for getting caught is no longer any punishment at all.

It’s all part of the Tory crimewave.

So much for the party of law and order.

The Tories are also the party of privatisation, and some prisons – notably HMP Northumberland – have been handed over to private operators – Sodexo, in that instance.

The result? Disaster.

Prison officer numbers had been cut, meaning the authorities had lost control. An undercover reporter for Panorama revealed that prisoners had been sneaking out – unobserved – to collect drugs. They were treating prison like a holiday camp.

But that’s what happens when you hand over corrective services to organisations for which the only concern is profit.

Private companies don’t care about the conditions in which prisoners live. They don’t care if there aren’t enough prison officers to keep control – they’ll cut employee numbers in order to make their profit. They don’t care if prisoners get out and bring illegal substances back – it probably makes them easier to handle. They certainly don’t care if prisoners learn nothing from the experience and go back to crime on their release – it means they will stay in business when those people are caught.

But at what cost to communities?

Worst of all, your Conservative government doesn’t care either.

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Remember Nazanin? After Tories forgot her, London’s Labour Mayor has called for her to be freed

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe.

Fair play to Sadiq Khan, Labour’s Mayor of London, for bringing the plight of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe back to public attention.

Nazanin, as you should well recall, is a charity worker who was jailed in 2016 on trumped-up charges of trying to engineer a “soft” revolt against the Iranian regime, when in fact she had been celebrating that country’s New Year with family members who live there.

Boris Johnson, as UK Foreign Secretary, made matters infinitely worse for her when he stupidly suggested that the Iranian authorities’ claims were right and she had been training journalists.

He travelled to Iran to try to secure Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s release but instead only succeeded in promising to hand over nearly half a billion pounds that the UK had been withholding from Iran’s rulers since the 1970s.

I seem to recall that he expected to receive Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe in return but that hasn’t happened. What a buffoon.

Today – December 26, 2018 – is her 40th birthday. Husband Richard Ratcliffe issued a joint statement with London Mayor Sadiq Khan to mark the date.

They said: “Nazanin has been wrongly detained in an Iranian prison for over two years. She has done nothing wrong, has broken no laws. The charges against her are completely false.

“She is innocent and should not be kept in prison, separated for so long from her family and her young daughter. While she’s imprisoned, Nazanin continues to suffer both physically and mentally.

“We, and indeed the whole country, know what a travesty of justice it is that Nazanin continues to be detained. Her case, and also those of other dual-nationality prisoners being wrongly held in Iran, have rightly attracted global interest and deep concern.

“London is home to a large Iranian community who make a valuable contribution to this great, diverse city. Together, we are united in calling on the Iranian authorities to release Nazanin immediately along with the others who are being wrongly detained, to allow them to return home and be reunited with their loved ones.”

The appeal –

– has attracted support on the social media:

The Iranian authorities will do whatever they want, of course.

They know they have a source of leverage against the UK government, and have already used it to their advantage.

The reminder that British political organisations have not forgotten her is welcome – even new Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt has raised the issue again with the Iranians.

But I think the UK will need a lot more leverage of its own before she is returned to her husband and family. Let us hope I am mistaken.

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UKIP appoints jailbird who nearly ruined a rape trial as adviser on prison reform and rape gangs

Grinning idiots: UKIP leader Gerard Batten shakes all credibility away as he shakes hands with Stephen Yaxley-Lennon (Tommy Robinson) and gives him a position of responsibility in his inner circle.

No wonder Brexit is such a godawful mess when the political organisation that campaigned to achieve it for decades appoints a far-right extremist who was sent to prison after he nearly ruined the trial of a major rape gang as its special adviser on prison reform and rape gangs.

Not only has UKIP leader Gerard Batten allowed Stephen Yaxley-Lennon (also known as Tommy Robinson) into his party; he has also given him a job that can only be seen as an insult to the public.

And the reaction has been exactly what we should expect:

https://twitter.com/DickCoughlan/status/1065676244338057217

Andy King’s opinion is particularly sharp:

https://twitter.com/AndyMoboboKing/status/1065672803322658816

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No respite for Nazanin

What a shame.

This was nothing to do with efforts by the Conservative government to negotiate the release of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe from the Iranian prison where she has been unjustly held for so long on false charges.

She had been released for three days to see her daughter, and it had been hoped that this release would be extended. This has not happened.

Just think – if Boris Johnson had been capable of doing his job properly, she could have been back in the UK before Christmas.

Now Mr Johnson is on the backbenches and one has to wonder whether he is even capable of acting responsibly as a constituency MP. Can anyone provide information on this?

And the title of Foreign Secretary has now fallen to Jeremy Hunt, who seems to prefer hobnobbing with murderous dictators, rather than helping UK citizens.

It seems Mr Johnson set the bar so low that Mr Hunt isn’t even trying.

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