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    Britain's worst private prison has been taken over by the government from the private firm G4S, after inspectors said it had fallen into a "state of crisis". The Chief Inspector of Prisons described it as the worst prison he had ever been to. Sputnik spoke to the ex-prisoner turned prison campaigner, Cody Lachey, about the state of UK prisons.

    Sputnik: So Cody, the standard of prisons in the UK have rapidly declined. The recent loss of control at G4S HMP Birmingham is just the tip of the iceberg. Could you describe what conditions are like in Prisons across the UK?

    Cody Lachey: I’ve been in Strangeways and Forest Bank, which is a category B prison in Salford. Like I say, I still speak to a lot of prisoners up and down the country and I’ve seen report after report from prisoners, serving prisoners, former prisoners and obviously Her Majesty’s Inspector of Prisons, and the fact is prisons are squalid, vermin infested, dilapidated, run down and just decrepit. Old Victorian prisons for the most part. Like I say, treating prisoners in that way and having them live in those conditions, does not aid rehabilitation in any which way – if anything it goes right the other way.

    Sputnik: Yesterday the prison minister pledged £10 million worth of investment for the 10 worst prisons, with Mr. Rory Stewart promising to resign if the program fails to deliver improvements. Is this enough funding? What changes to prisons do prisoners need/want to see?

    Cody Lachey: At the end of the day, 10 million pounds for the 10 worst prisons is a drop in the ocean – it’s like giving muffins to an elephant. At the end of the day, it doesn’t touch the sides; I think 10 million pounds per prison and you’re still way, way off. The penal system and the prison system has been so underfunded and so under sourced for so long. And millions upon millions of pounds of investment into each prison are needed to bring it up to an adequate level. Like I say, prisoners need to be treated where they live in humane conditions with humanity and humility, but the fact is it’s not going to happen because for the most part, prisoners are not on the government’s agenda. The only way that prisoners will be on the government’s agenda fully is if prisoners are given the right to vote and then all these political parties across the board will have to factor in prisoners into their manifestos when canvassing; when the next general elections comes round. Prisons need to be places of education, skills and training. We are in 2018 and there are still 1,298 cells without in-cell sanitation in England and Wales. I don’t know if these cells are in service, I’m assuming there not, because I can’t see prisoners slopping out in 2018, but obviously it wouldn’t surprise me it were.

    Sputnik: Finally Cody, if the government continues to run the prisons in the same way they're being run now — what does the future hold for prisons in the UK?

    Cody Lachey: The prison system has gone backwards. Since 1990 where here in Manchester we had the Strangeways riot on the back of the Lord Woolf report, where actual in-cell sanitation was brought in. Apart from in-cell sanitation being brought in and TVs being introduced in 1998 and 1999, the prison system has gone backwards. It’s declining and we’re going to see riots similar to those at Strangeways in 1990. The facts are, the way the current system is and obviously the private and the public sector prisons across the board are failing. If it doesn’t change soon, it’s going to go off, there’s going to be riots. Rory Stewart, the prisons minister, is saying the right sort of things but the fact is, he said himself in interviews across the board, if in twelve months drugs and violence haven’t reduced he’s going – he’s going to fall on his sword. Rehabilitation is a made up word and it doesn’t take place in prisons. Prisons are just places, doubling up as mental health units, people are struggling with addictions and people are going into prison having never taken a drug in their life and leaving as addicts, or worse in body bags – it happened in my former prison. It’s only going to get worse. It frustrates me to hell as a former prisoner, because I think me and other prison reformers, we may not be academically up there, but we’ve got real life experience of the subject matter and we have a lot of good opinions and good ideas, but people like the Ministry of Justice don’t listen to people like us. Unfortunately for prisoners they are at the end of that domino trail.

    The views expressed in this article are those of the speaker, and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.


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