Leo Olivero

Even before the Windmill Hill Prison was officially opened in 2010 there were calls for change to the prison system through a process of reform. However, much like other problematic social issues which impact many in society also requiring reform, this has been ignored. And why last week I was not surprised to hear the new Prison Superintendent Gareth Coom say his priorities are the ‘Rehabilitation and a Juvenile Detention Centre’. 

Mr Coom did not give any details, particularly on the Juvenile detention centre, although I doubt there are any to give, even if he wanted to share publicly. I doubt the minister concerned or the government know themselves. This if the next 4 years is anything to go by or the election manifesto which indicate no plans to conduct any serious long-term reform of the prison service. An initiative that would greatly contribute to public policy in this area.

Purpose of Prison

As one former UK Justice Secretary David Gauke said in an address:

‘Depriving someone of their liberty for a period of time is one of the most significant powers available to the State and must be imposed with respect for the rule of law and with purpose.

Prison is the sharp end of our justice system. By imposing this serious sanction, we must be clear about what prison is for.

I believe its purpose is threefold:

1.Protection of the public – prison protects the public from the most dangerous and violent individuals

2.Punishment – prison deprives offenders of their liberty and certain freedoms enjoyed by the rest of society and acts as a deterrent. It is not the only sanction available, but it is an important one

3.Rehabilitation – prison provides offenders with the opportunity to reflect on, and take responsibility for, their crimes and prepare them for a law-abiding life when they are released. It’s only by prioritising rehabilitation that we can reduce reoffending and, in turn, the numbers of future victims of crime’.