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Frances Crook's blog · 14 Jan 2016

Punishment system out of control

Over 2,000 years of additional imprisonment were imposed over the past five years on people who misbehaved in prison.

Prisons operate disciplinary hearing called adjudications where allegations of rule breaking are dealt with. The Howard League published research last year based on just one year’s figures which showed that in 2014 over 160,000 extra days were imposed. Andy Slaughter MP, shadow justice minister, asked a Parliamentary Question that elicited the figures for the last five years. This showed that a total of 768,518 days had been imposed from 2010 to 2014.

This is a punishment system out of control, responding to a prison estate that is out of control.

The statistics show that individual prisons under particular stress resort to excessive use of disciplinary procedures.

Aylesbury prison that holds teenagers and young adults had 25,379 days, almost 70 years, imposed.

Pentonville prison had over 20,801 extra days imposed, or 57 years.

Private prisons are extremely punitive.

Despite G4S Oakwood only being fully operational for 2013 and 2014 it had 8,937 days imposed in those two years.

G4S run Parc prison in Wales imposed 16,800 extra days.

Sodexo took over Northumberland prison and in three years 14,291 days were imposed.

Until 2002 it was governors who had the power to impose additional days of imprisonment on prisoners deemed to have misbehaved and on average around 80,000 extra days were awarded. A legal battle resulted in this power being removed and a new system of external adjudication was established with district judges hearing cases. Since then, the number of days imposed has exploded.

District judges are passing sentence on prisoners for misbehaving with no accountability for the outcome or consequences, nor are they taking into account the circumstances of the prison which is often grossly overcrowded and under-staffed resulting in disgusting conditions and prisoners in distress.

The system needs to change.

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