Another National Crisis

The UK’s criminal justice system has been in crisis for some years – a crisis which has become particularly acute in our over-crowded, over-stretched and under-staffed prisons and probation services. Against this background it was good to hear that the NI Justice Minister has temporarily released a number of prisoners in an effort to control the spread of coronavirus in prisons. Inmates with two months or less still to serve will be released on temporary licence in stages. Releasing the prisoners early is a humane response to overcrowding in prisons. It is hoped that it will prevent both staff and prisoners becoming infected with the Covid 19 virus. “Doubling up” has been increasingly used in NI because of an increase in the prison population. That so many have to share cells is a failure of the practice of single-celling that was established in principle two centuries ago following the work of the heroic 18th century Christian prison reformer John Howard. Continue reading