The fundamental principles of the prison system in the UK is to work to rehabilitate offenders and deliver justice to the wider community. Balancing delivering these principles, as well as keeping prisons controlled against the COVID-19 pandemic has proven to be extremely problematic. Prisoners in England and Wales have been subject to 23 hours in their cell, with rehabilitative efforts temporarily stopped, family visitations a thing of the past and for some, a great risk of contracting the virus. Only recently in December 2020 did prisons record the largest number of positive cases since the pandemic began, with the Labour party describing this as ‘on the risk of growing out of control’.
To deprive prisoners of the chance to rehabilitate, as well as subjecting them to solidary confinement conditions, which has shown to cause a significant decline in many prisoners mental health, there will be not only consequences on the prisoners but their families, and their wider community. Whilst we are so wrapped up in battling the pandemic, we are forgetting about the consequences we will face for years to come once COVID-19 is a distant memory.
The consequence of the current implementation plan for our prisons have the potential to be huge. I assume reoffending rates will rise in the coming years due to the lack of rehabilitation practices prisoners received over the pandemic. Prisoners who have young families, who may have not had sufficient contact for almost a year may also suffer, with studies showing a lack of communication between a young child and their parent can cause significant developmental issues. Furthermore, as a society we are paying billions in taxes for a prison system which is fundamentally flawed and may deliver further injustice.
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