Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Prison Reform Update

The book "Doing Time" is not 50 shades of grey but it is selling well!
It is still available at all good bookshops and on Amazon / Kindle.
These last few months the campaign for prison reform has not stopped and I wanted to update regular readers of what we are doing. The Justice Secretary, the Prisons Minister and the PM have all got a copy of the book, and we have continued to take the message of change through rehabilitation far and wide:
- In december we held a debate in parliament on literacy in prisons:
- I have held a series of book launches, seminars and discussion events in Hexham, and in several events in London, with think tanks like Policy Exchange and more recently with the new Think Tank, Bright Blue:
Their event last week in the Two Chairman Pub in Victoria, London was a lively old fashioned pub based Q+ A that went on for nearly 2 hours as we discussed issues of crime, punishment, rehabilitation, victim expectation, deductions for literacy and so much more over a couple of pints - a genuine pub and sawdust event with no holds barred - I loved it! They are a very interesting bunch of innovative young thinkers and political free spirits, and worth getting to know / going along to their events.
I have also done a legal book launch with Hammicks in law land on Chancery Lane / the Temple and am speaking at a number of future events in the north and across the country over the next months, and may even be taking the ideas behind the book to our Europeans neighbours at a policy seminar in the summer - details all to be confirmed but my thanks to the Institute of Economic Affairs for the invite:

Finally, I have also met with 3 fascinating people who have helped shape my views on prison reform: two former prisoners Jonathan Robinson and Jonathan Aitken have both served their time and are now providing their insight on changes to the prisons they occupied for the wrong reasons. The former MP Jonathan Aitken is a genuinely contrite and deeply insightful man who is doing all he can to make our prisons better. I have got to know him and hope to tap his massive knowledge of the subject some more. Likewise Jonathan Robinson, formerly of HMP Bedford and now author of his book "In It", a warts and all study of his time inside and his proposals for change.
My last special meeting was with Sean Prendergast, who runs the most important Jamaican prison, the Tower Street Correctional Facility. He explained to me the difficulties that he faced with over 1800 inmates in a Victorian prison designed for 800, with 3 to a small cell and no toilet, and minimal ability to provide rehabilitation facilities. We spoke at length. I am grateful to all 3 experts for their insight, wisdom and advice.
One of the great things about being an MP is the ability to try and take an issue and attempt to influence the way a country and other places address their problems. I do not presume to have the answer to all of prisons problems but I do want to try and make a difference on this issue in the years that lie ahead. Finally, if you have not read my book I urge you to do so! All proceeds go to charity.