New rules brought in by Justice Secretary Chris Grayling mean that prisoners will not be allowed to receive any parcels this Christmas.
City AM reporter Mike Bird highlighted yesterday a press release by the Prison Reform Trust, that details how spiteful new rules brought in by Chris Grayling last month mean that prisoner’s families cannot send them anything for the first time. Now, one’s instinct might be - “oh well, no Christmas presents for prisoners, who cares?” However, the PRT notes that the issue goes way beyond festive treats:
The Prison Reform Trust has been contacted by women prisoners who cannot get hold of enough clean underwear to keep them hygienic during their period. The Ministry of Justice has introduced a fixed limit to the number of items of underwear which men and women may have in their cells, as well as placing restrictions on other items of clothing.
Most women would probably recoil in horror at the idea of running out of knickers when they have their period, and putting female prisoners in that situation is degrading and unhygienic. Furthermore, there are worries that prisoners working outside of prisons are not able to get enough warm clothing over the winter months. Prisoners earn small wages from work within prison, and can buy some of these items, but sometimes the wage doesn’t go far enough and families had previously provided additional items.
Last time I checked, the Victorian age had finished and we were meant to be keeping prisoners in humane conditions.
The PRT also reports that prisoners are having their access to things like stationary, books, and playing cards limited for similar reasons. It’s clearly much better that prisoners can’t access to these things, because without the most basic entertainment they’ll probably just sit quietly and think about what they have done wrong, instead of becoming violent, disillusioned or even planning further offences with other prisoners.
The PRT says that “prison governor’s discretion is limited but it is up to individual governors to decide what counts as exceptional” and is allowed in. Ministry of Justice officials are apparently monitoring implementation of the new rules.
Last week Lib Dem Simon Hughes became a justice minister. He has previously run various campaigns on civil liberties, and it will be interesting to see if he takes on his new boss to get these rules reversed in the new year. Quite how this got past his predecessor Lord McNally I have no idea, but it’s worrying that it did, given that McNally now chairs the Youth Justice Board.
This is an utterly ill thought, petty and spiteful policy, that returns our prisons to the dark ages. We are supposed to operate a system of justice, not petty vengeance.
You can read the full PRT statement here.