HMPs in Crisis
Whether based on race, hometown, status, or any other criteria – violent gangs are a part of UK prison life which officials are struggling to handle due to their lack of funding and subsequently plummeting prison staff morale. Physical altercations between prisoners and other prisoners, as well as prisoners and prison staff, remain common in many of Her Majesty’s prisons, despite what the public may assume. Are they the correctional facilities they’re designed to be or melting pots for new gangs and networks to get mixed up in?
A serious lack of funding
A lack of funding is largely to blame for the slipping standards we’re now seeing in British prisons. As funds have been cut from HM prisons, the number of prison officers has dropped, inevitably allowing drug and weapon usage to climb due to the diminished manpower. In addition to prisoner-on-prisoner attacks, the number of incidents where prisoners have attacked prison staff has also increased. More and more inmates are inflicting harm on themselves too, often with suicidal intentions.
You may think that a razor blade attached to a toothbrush is a cliché trope of American prison movies, but makeshift weapons are a reality throughout prisons across the UK. Gang “turf wars” are also prevalent in prisons too, while prisoners taking and dealing drugs continues to be the norm in many institutions. We’re not even talking about soft drugs or Class Cs here - approximately 20 UK prisoners die every year due to overdosing on hard drugs such as heroin.
Poor staff morale and high turnover rates
With all these aforementioned problems, it’s not shocking that budding prison officers are not excitedly signing up for jobs. With prison governors being forced to reduce their annual costs by £149 million in 2014, prison staff simply cannot keep up with the gang wars and rising drug problems plaguing their workplaces.
According to the Prison Officers’ Association, these cuts have put vulnerable prisoners at risk on the inside, in addition to HMP staff, many of whom have become jaded and worn out by the inadequately-funded facilities.
Who is to blame?
Many blame this poor morale and high turnover of prison staff on the Conservative government’s cuts to public servants and services, whether they be cuts on police offers or on prison staff. Whoever is at fault for the slipping standards, it is clear that something needs to be done in order to curb the prison problems the country is facing.
The bottom line
Put simply, serious action and increased funding are needed ASAP. Proper funding would allow HMPs to focus on rehabilitation and increased security controls, calming the currently tumultuous situation we are facing. Some may write off prisons and their inmates as being unruly by nature, but the majority of the problems Her Majesty’s Prison system is facing could be easily prevented with increased funding and preventive measures.
Instead of pointing the finger, let’s work towards a solution that keeps our prisons safe and functional for years to come.
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