I am so sorry to share the awful news released a few hours ago that two OSG'S (Prison Officers) working at HMP Pentonville have tragically died from #COVID19
There is so much I want to say; but I will refrain from saying anything anything other than my condolences are with the families and I wish them every possible comfort at this horrendous time.
To: Rt Hon Priti Patel MP Home Secretary and Rt Hon Robert Buckland QC MP, Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice
Release 10,000 Un-Convicted and Low-Risk Prisoners NOW to Avoid Death Sentences
Please release 10,000 unconvicted and low risk prisoners urgently
Why is this important?
15% of the people in prison have respiratory conditions, most cannot self-isolate because they are housed two to each cell, in a cell originally built for one.
Our prisons house 85,000 of our family members in the setting of a Dickensian nightmare. Hygiene and living conditions are dire with many prisoners having NO toilet roll, no lids on toilets, very little soap and certainly no hand sanitiser. Rats, cockroaches, eating dinner on toilet and £2 food budget per person per day, are the reality.
Additionally, the staff/ prisoner ratio which is currently so strained that many prisoners can only shower once every 5 days, is about get very much worst as the dedicated people that staff our prisons need to self-isolate.
#COVID-19 has arrived in 2 prisons so far and it will run rampant through the prison estate like a medieval plague.
Stopping the spread of a virus in these circumstances is at best, improbable, at worst, impossible.
Even simple things like phones and serveries are touched by hundreds of unwashed hands every day.
Sympathy for the plight of prisoners is not common but we should not forget that our prisons also hold many innocent people. With court closures, thousands of people held on remand (legally innocent) will be kept in dangerous and degrading conditions for at least 12-18 months if not longer. We need to consider releasing all innocent people held on remand and accused of non-violent offending.
Our prisons are in an overcrowded and under-resourced crisis; the people in them are self-harming and committing suicide in record numbers. Priti Patel, Home Secretary has responded to the Coronavirus crisis by releasing 600 sentenced prisoners, 6 weeks early on tag. Although a most welcome step, this is less than 1% of the 85,000 people in prison and will do nothing to ease population pressures.
Iran (hardy a model of compassionate democracy) made the sensible and significant decision to release 85,000 low risk prisoners; 35% of their prison population of 240,000.
If we did the same, we would release (detain at home, supervise and monitor) 30,000 people.
Prison is a temporary home for all but 77 people serving natural life sentences. The other 85,000 are going to be released at some point. Many will be due for release in the very near future and some who are low risk of harm could be made suitable for an extended tag programme to reduce pressure on prisons and the associated, predictable loss of life.
Some people may say "If you don't want time, don't do the crime". This is a rote phrase, which is easy to quote but harder to apply in real life; most crime is not premeditated and all of us would make a whole host of different decisions with hindsight (or a time machine).
This is not about letting people get away with their crimes, it is about not putting them at risk of a greater sentence than they were given. We no longer have the death sentence in the UK and we have an obligation to keep people safe. We will not be able to do this inside our crumbling prison estate.
We are not talking about high-risk offenders like terrorists as some may suggest. Terrorists are a statistically unrepresentative example, being only 224 prisoners out of 85,000, that's 0.26% of the prison population. By comparison, an average of 325 people, 0.38%, are sent to prison each year for non-payment of council tax or TV licence.
If we do not release a large number of these non-violent, low risk prisoners, then there is a very real possibility that many people who are serving sentences for non-violent crimes may in fact receive the death sentence.
Dear Home Secretary, please consider releasing 10,000 people urgently from UK prisons.