Solihull MP Lorely Burt and an ex convict have insisted jail ‘is no easy ride’ after it was announced prisoners are to face a tougher regime inside.
Mrs Burt, a former assistant governor at Holloway Prison and Frankie Owens, an award winning author who served time in HMP Winchester, have this week reacted to new measures introduced by Justice Secretary Chris Grayling for Britain’s inmates.
Mr Grayling has criticised some of those in jail for ‘languishing in their cells and watching daytime television while the rest of the country goes out to work’ and has introduced a policy that will see inmates working a longer day and being downgraded in status for bad behaviour. In cells, televisions will not be provided for ‘basic level’ prisoners.
Mr Owens, who has published The Little Book of Prison, which aims to help first time cons survive the tough first few months behind bars, has accused the Government of ‘headline grabbing.’
“Prison in its physical form is torturous. I actually grew up on holiday camps and serving a prison sentence is the absolute opposite you can ever have to a holiday camp. If these rehabilitation programmes were available, I know that prisoners would embrace them. But the ones that are available are limited and often run by charitable organisations.
“Television is being used as a stick to beat prisoners with.
“Television and radio can be used as a tool and to motivate. The National Prison Radio, for example, and I would be using it to promote Open University courses. We need to give prisoners something productive to do,” the former Meriden resident said.
Meriden MP Caroline Spelman welcomed the idea that privileges in prison should be earned ‘and should not come as a right.’
But Mrs Burt disagreed: “As an ex assistant governor I can assure your readers that the day-to-day reality of prison is not the cushy number that it is portrayed in some newspapers.
“Many prisoners are locked up for many, many hours on end, every single day.
“I would love them to have a longer working day, or in some cases any working day at all. Most of all I want to see them get access to work and skills training to give them tools they need to go straight when they get out.
“If Mr Gove wants to censor their ability to watch Scary Monster 2 or the third series of the Inbetweeners that’s fine with me, but I’d rather he focused on getting the basics right.”