In prison and in distress…

Image - girl worries

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto/VeryOlive

Custody is a tough place to be. I guess some sections of the public may think that’s a good thing.

After all, prison is about punishment, right? Mmm.

A recent inspection report into Eastwood Park prison near Bristol highlighted the issue of self-harm.

So may be we should “listen” to the behaviour of those in custody before we make that judgment…

What behaviour tells us…

In this particular prison, young women aged 18-21 make up 10% of the population.

However, they account for 33% of the self-harm incidents.

Given what we know about self-harm, perhaps we need to revisit what’s happening in our prisons?

Maybe they just don’t meet the needs of young people?

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What would it take?…

Have you ever asked yourself what it would take for you to begin to cut your legs, deliberately poison yourself or bite your arms?

Prison gates

Photo ©Jonny Matthew

Probably not. Why would you?

But this is the reality of self-harming behaviour. When distress and confusion become so great that it turns inwards and becomes self-destructive.

On this basis, I think it’s fair to assume that just being in custody is punishment enough.

Once inside, we have a responsibility to work hard to help. To provide treatment, therapy, medical help, counselling. Basically whatever it takes to help young people turn things around.

If they gain and get their lives on track it helps the rest of us, too. Fewer offences means less risk the rest of us will becomes victims.

Final thought…

If prison is just about punishment, what does it really achieve? Clearly for the most dangerous people, it removes the risk to the public. This is a very good thing.

But for the majority, it’s an opportunity to stop the chaos and provide the help people really need. Young people in particular.

If Eastwood Park is typical, I guess we have a way to go yet…

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What do you think?…

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© Jonny Matthew 2014

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  • Amanda Swan Bridgland

    Evidence shows time and time again that punishment in prison does not work. I advocate restorative justice as much as I can with along with my colleagues. Repair the harm. Understand the consequences and take a positive step forward. Like all interventions, restorative measures do not work for everyone, and this is precisely the approach we need to take; not cost first. The words of Ann Widdecombe on the One Show some weeks ago echoed the voices of parliament in that ‘we’ cannot tailor a system to work for everyone’s individual needs. Short sited that’s for sure. We cannot tailor everything for everyone but we can give it dam good go, especially when we are talking about our future generation/s. We can also see from evidence what works. Positivity! Is this not enough to at least push for the interventions that work?

    • jonnymatthew

      Here here! J.