Green Party conference considers the prison problem

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A panel this evening at Green Party autumn conference (at 6pm) will consider the problems currently facing the UK prison system, including overcrowding, repeat offenders, and the high cost of prison places.

England and Wales has the highest imprisonment rate in Western Europe (1) (2), which is a massive expense to society. The Green Party is committed to significantly reducing the prison population, favouring a system of restorative justice, which requires offenders to make reparations for their crimes to the victims.

The panel includes Juliet Lyon, Director of the Prison Reform Trust, Denise Marshall, Group Co-ordinator of Birth Companions, a charity that offers support to pregnant women in UK prisons, and Joy Goal, project manager of the Anawin Project in Birmingham.

In advance of the panel, Juliet Lyon from the Prison Reform Trust said: “There are safe, constructive ways to stop wasting lives and money.” She continued: “The numbers of women entering custody could be halved. Instead of prison, vulnerable women need to be offered much-needed mental healthcare, treatment for addictions, safe housing and preparation for employment. This would be combined with sound advice on getting out of debt, breaking free from domestic violence, abuse and prostitution and reliable support to take responsibility for their own lives and their children.”

Denise Marshall, in explaining the work of Birth Companions, said: “By reducing stress and isolation, we aim to give women and babies a more positive experience and enable mothers to make a fresh start with their baby.” Last year, the charity supported 87 women who were pregnant, giving birth or looking after a baby in HMP Holloway.

The panellists will also be joined by Joy Doal, project manager of The Anawin Project, as well as an Anawin project participant. The charity works with women in and out of prison across Birmingham, who are affected by prostitution, drug addiction and domestic violence.

The panel will take place today at 6pm. Green Party conference continues until the 13th of September at the Birmingham Conservatoire, B3.

Notes

1) At 147 per 100,000 of the population, compared to 91 per 100,000 in France and 95 per 100,000 in Germany. These figures are from the Prison Reform Trust’s Bromley Briefings Prison Factfile from June 2008 (http://www.prisonreformtrust.org.uk/temp/FactfilespPROOFspJUNE08small.pdf).
2) More recent figures from the International Centre for Prison Studies at King’s College London suggest that the imprisonment rate in England and Wales has actually risen since 2008 to approximately 154 per 100 000 of population.

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