No doubt there will be some out there that will have listened to or read the news recently about the and have said to themselves, ‘Well tough! It’s no more than they deserve, those disgusting filthy criminals.’

Those of you who think like that could not be further from the truth

HMP Birmingham is a remand prison. Therefore, the majority of residents there are innocent individuals. They have not been tried of any crime, never mind been found guilty of one.

Now, as you were reading that, you were thinking, ‘Ah! But there is no smoke without fire.’

Tell me that after you have been sent to jail for not paying your community charge or that most heinous of crimes: not paying your TV licence. Yes, we as a nation have jailed people for both.

Regardless of what the person has been remanded for, the cornerstone of our justice system is that the person must be deemed innocent before being proved guilty beyond any reasonable doubt. If you don’t believe in that ethos, then there are many dictatorial countries that will welcome you with open arms.

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The state of our prisons is perilous, and the recent headlines have at long last brought this to light.

I care not that HMP Birmingham is run by a private company. This is simply not a matter of a private jail gone bad. It’s a matter of a jail gone bad.

Prisons can reform people, I am the example of it. It gave me the time and space to deconstruct myself and build back up again.

HMP Nottingham and HMP Exeter are just two other jails that have had urgent notifications issued against them, but we haven’t read the headline, ‘Public Sector prison in dire straits.’ So, I am sorry my anti-privatisation friends, your argument doesn’t hold water here.

What does strike home is that it is a jail where we put our fellow human beings in for a period of time and expect them to live in squalid, damp and dank conditions. When we then release them, we expect them to be emboldened new members of society.

I feel for those I mentioned above; those who are released having been found not guilty or who are released with no further action.

These are innocent individuals that we have stripped bare, tortured mentally (and if reports are correct in the case of Birmingham; physically) and then said, ‘Oops! Sorry, off you go’.

Think of that the next time you have your first glass of wine, get in your car to drive home only to crash into a car and find out the breathalyser was faulty, and you were jailed for driving under the influence.

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The majority of prisons in our country are so very ill-equipped for purpose.

Their task is to house those sentenced by the courts humanely, safely and help them become better members of society.

They don’t; they warehouse people, they segregate them from their families by moving them throughout the country. They then release them with £45 in their pocket, expecting them to survive on that money until they get a job. We, then as a society, are left to pick up the pieces.

Prisons can reform people, I am the example of it. It gave me the time and space to deconstruct myself and build back up again.


I went through terrible times in prison, but that wasn’t at the hand of a staff member, nor was it down to prisoner involvement.

I developed, or rather, pre-existing psychological conditions surfaced. The prison offered me help and I took it.

And while I was there, I witnessed good, caring, empathetic staff who were in the job for the right reason: to help others.

My sentence worked for me and I left prison a better person than entered it and I forever grateful. I am the exception; but I shouldn’t be.

I have never seen nor witnessed such atrocities as those that have been reported in Birmingham. It disgusts me.


Prisons can be decent places of reform. Prisons can actually strengthen ties. For a lot of people, prison is the ultimate sanction and it stops them from going down the road of future criminality.

The family will then surround the prisoner and do as all families do: extol their love for that person. It’s the ‘last chance saloon’ for a lot of people and it can work. But it can only work if you staff it properly, give it the air of decency and humanity.

Treat those resident in it with decency and you can be comforted that the man who moves next door to you after having been released from custody is a reformed character.

The fee for this article has been donated to The Dogs Trust Charity.




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