The answer to the prison crisis is simpler than we think

While our primary focus is about specifically women and community justice, it is always useful to consider discussions about custodial settings for prisoners in general, particularly from colleagues regarding elsewhere in the UK.

This week’s guest blog comes from Jacqueline Hollows, Founder of Beyond Recovery C.I.C, specialising in UK criminal justice system reforms.

The BBC headline reads “An extra 2,100 prison officers are to be recruited to ease staffing shortages in jails in England and Wales, Justice Secretary Liz Truss will say later” http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-37854358

But we are looking in the wrong direction for the answer because we need to treat the cause not the symptoms.

Yes! Extra prison officers would be a definite benefit to an overcrowded, over stretched, under appreciated system.

Yes! We need to do something to prevent prison officers being attacked in the course of their duties, this is unacceptable.

Yes! Prison officers job should be one of helping with rehabilitation, preventing the cost of £15billion a year in reoffending.

Yes! We need to do something about prisoners self harming, not least to address the depression, anxiety and anger that is underlying these behaviours.

However, extra prison officers (the time to recruit and train notwithstanding) is not the only answer. We have to do something much more significant and yet so much more simple. Something that can be done now, easily and effectively.

Justice Secretary Liz Truss states “So as well as getting the violence down, my reform plans are designed to get prisoners into work, off drugs, get the education they need – so that when they leave prison they contribute to society rather than committing crime”.

The only way we can achieve these well intentioned aims AND keep staff and prisoners safe is to start addressing the CAUSE and not the SYMPTOMS.

Bullying, violence, anger, depression, anxiety, drug use, stress – are all symptoms.

Trafficking, bullying, self harming, suicide, attacks, stress – are all attempts at addressing the symptoms.

There is only one cause to all of these symptoms and consequences – State of Mind. A lack of understanding of how our psychological experience is created. A simple and yet comprehensive solution. A solution to staff issues and to prisoner issues.

The outcomes of understanding this simple and yet unknown fact are: increased sense of responsibility; increased self esteem; purpose in life (desire to get educated, get skilled up, increase social participation); increased feelings of empathy; and increased motivation to name but a few.

So bring on extra officers but lets give them the fundamental training they need so they can keep safe and even enjoy their job!

Let us train the prisoners in the same understanding so that they take responsibility for their lives and become assets rather than liabilities.

Why wouldn’t we look to this solution? Why wouldn’t we make a difference to peoples lives – prison officers, prisoners and society?

Follow Jacqueline Hollows, Founder of Beyond Recovery C.I.C, specialising in UK criminal justice system reforms @beyond_recovery