‘Prison system is brutal and broken’

The IRCT comments on today’s article by Sir Tom Winsor in The Times, Monday 16 September 2019

‘Prevention is better than cure. This is true everywhere — in health, conflict resolution, construction, environmental protection and so many other fields of human activity where things can and do go wrong. In policing, Sir Robert Peel’s first and ninth principles confirm this. In 1829, he said: “The basic mission for which the police exist is to prevent crime and disorder; the test of police efficiency is the absence of crime and disorder, not the visible evidence of police action in dealing with it”.

And yet, in policing today extraordinarily little police time is spent on prevention, and too high a proportion is devoted to dealing with the consequences of the failure to prevent. The causes of crime and disorder are many and often complex. They include social dysfunctionality, families in crisis, the failings of parents and communities, the disintegration of deference and respect for authority (sometimes because figures of authority behave badly too), alcohol, drugs, a misplaced and unjustified desire or determination to exert power over others, envy, greed, materialism and the corrosive effects of readily-available hard-core pornography and the suppression of instincts of revulsion to violence. Most have nothing to do with the police.…..

….Very high proportions of people in prison are unwell, uneducated, undervalued, and justifiably angry. In childhood, many have suffered or witnessed domestic violence or abuse. Many more have severe and chronic mental ill-health, intensified by years of lack of diagnosis or adequate early treatment. And many have no sense of self-worth, feel hopeless, lost and abused, and that no one ever has or ever will care. They believe they have nothing to lose.’

Sir Tom Winsor is Her Majesty’s chief inspector of constabulary 

We at The Institute for Recovery from Childhood Trauma agree that prevention is better and argue that if money is spent on working with children, young people and families that are affected by domestic violence, sexual, physical or emotional abuse or neglect and other ACES (and often there is coexistence) the outcome for the children and young people would be healthier both mentally and physically. There would be a short term (5 – 15 year) cost balanced by a longer term (lifetime) gain and overall benefit to society reducing NHS costs, youth Justice, prison and Justice costs

It is vital to recognise that children affected by developmental trauma are often in the grip of the physiological response which means that the past trauma is representing itself in the present and are triggered to flight, fight or freeze and are disruptive, aggressive, defiant or cut off from their environment. These children are often misunderstood in the education system and are permanently excluded from school. So begins the spiral into the prison system.