The Chief Inspector of Prisons, Dame Anne Owers has recently expressed concern at the escalation of prison violence in England and Wales. While, she has acknowledged that, thus far the violence has been effectively contained, it would seem that this may struggle to continue. In her Annual Report she identifies many areas of concern, but once more the main focus appears to be on overcrowding.
In spite of some positive areas—particularly in relation to the help provided to prisoners upon release—Anne Owers articulates considerable anxiety at the current state of British prisons. Such a viewpoint is shared by Juliet Lyon (Prison Reform Trust) who also pinpoints the increasing prison population, as well as major concerns with the Government’s proposal to build super-sized ‘Titan jails’ to deal with the problem.
Since the creation of the first prisons we have seen a continuing debate over the purpose of prison. Questions of rehabilitation, incapacitation and recidivism crop up again and again. It would appear that even today we are no closer to answering Robert Martinson’s question ‘What Works?’ Until a satisfactory conclusion is reached it is unlikely that any real progress can be achieved.