Jailhouse Thursday

By the time I've finished my time with Prisoner's Week I'll have visited nine jails. This has been a week that has helped me gain a great deal of insight into the Criminal Justice System here in Scotland. We lock up over 8,000 people in Scotland every year. It is estimated that the vast majority of our prison population do not pose a threat to society, certainly in the vast majority of cases..  So what is the purpose of prison? I have come to the conclusion that first and foremost imprisonment is itself the punishment for the crimes that have been committed. Loss of liberty is meant to be the punishment. But prison has become more that a punishment centre. For many it is becoming the place where they are getting  put together again. Time and time again  I have come across prison officers who see their job not simply as preventing escape but more often than not I hear them talking in terms of  enabling prisoners to understand the effects of their crime but also helping them to see how they can be involved in restorative justice. I was truly  hearted to meet so many enthusiastic committed people in the prison service. Among such people are the Chaplains who serve in our prisons. On Thursday we visited two jails Greenock in the morning and Shotts in the afternoon. The contrast between the two buildings couldn't be more stark.  Greenock is an old Victorian prison which recently has added to its numbers by admitting 54  women prisoners from Cornton Vale. this has happened because of the inspection Report that was given 18 months. This report highlighted the overcrowding in the prison and the need for better accommodation. hence a number of prisoners have been farmed out to various prisons to help ease the problem. I had a great time speaking to some of the women in the Greenock Prison who run the prison radio and I was able to share in one of their broadcasts. After some soup and sandwiches it was back on the road again to meet the prison staff at the brand new prison in Shotts. This is  a  'state of the art ' building and one which it is thought will help to make prison a meaningful and life changing experience. We were taken on a visit around the prison and introduced to many of the prisoners who were hard at work. There are a number of workshops in the complex including a joinery shed and an engineering shed and a recycling shed. We also finished our visit by meeting a number of prisoners who had just completed an afternoon in the education wing. In the evening it was good to be able to put on a short  musical concert for those prisoners who attended and to record the video to go with the Bogle Band's latest Christmas song "Missing You. "  
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