Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Prison Kills

I found an article by Mark Johnson about the death of his friend Craig Morrison incredibly sad. Craig fitted the profile of so many of those incarcerated by our criminal justice system, he came from a working class family, his father left home, his mother was an alcoholic and he ended up at 12 being put into 'care'. At 16 he was left to fend for himself he soon drifted into drug use and petty crime. Craig's account of his own childhood can be read in a Guardian Article published in 2008.

Like so many young people who are failed by society and damaged by its institutions it was his fate to end up in court where a man in fancy dress and a wig will have told him it was his fault and what was needed was that he be subjected to pain. This he would have been told was "justice".

Despite the criminal justice system's best attempts some convicts manage to escape its clutches and found outlets for their humanity and talents, sometimes a section of the criminal justice system actual helps them. This appears to have been Craig's experience at Grendon prison ten years ago which proved to be a turning point in his life.  Following release he appeared to be the very model of a reformed prisoner, he got a degree and followed this up with employment in a number of criminal justice agencies. He became a sought after speaker at reform conferences and seminars.

On New Year's Day he killed himself.

I never met Craig but his story didn't surprise me.  I have know far too many ex-con's kill themselves. I have read a few of their suicide notes. The damage done to individuals in state institutions, children's homes and prisons is immense. The suicide rates for prisoners are five times the national rate (and 18 times the national rate for 15-17 year olds. For male ex-prisoners they are over eight times the national rate and for women ex-prisoners they are 36 times the national rate. (source: See Page 21)

Just being in prison reduces life expectancy, the average age of male prisoners who die from 'natural causes' is 56.

So we do still have a death penalty, just not one handed out explicitly. Prison Kills.

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