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Probation view on prisons

It’s time the UK got over its morbid addiction with punishment and started working better with offenders. So said HM Chief Inspector of Probation Paul McDowell, presented with an Honorary Doctorate degree from Birmingham City University. He spoke of the major issues facing the running of prisons and cast doubt new guidance issued by Justice Secretary Chris Grayling into tackling illegal drug crime inside prison.

He said that the key challenge is addressing the staff to prisoners ratio: “If it were up to me, I’d have fewer people in prison and more people on community penalties. We should free up more time and resource inside prisons to really work with individuals to get them ready for their lives back in communities.”

Paul believes we need a “reality check” on the current approach that prisons are taking to crack down on drug use. “Unless we start to deal with drugs in an entirely different way culturally and if we continue to criminalise individuals with drug addictions, we’re never going to solve the problem. Chris Grayling’s zero tolerance approach is too narrow a view and all it will do is exacerbate the already existing problems.

“It’s about time we got over our rather morbid addiction to punishment and recognise what it is that we’re trying to achieve. Are we in it because we want to punish people or are we in it because we want to protect victims? If we want to protect victims, we’ve got to reduce crime. And if we want to reduce crime, we’ve got to do the right thing with offenders – putting aside personal views on their offences.”

Paul became HM Chief Inspector of Probation in February 2014 and has worked in the criminal justice sector for a quarter of a century. Earlier, Paul spent five years as Chief Executive Officer at crime reduction charity Nacro and has also worked as a Prison Governor at HM Prison Coldingley and HM Prison Brixton. Paul has a Masters degree in Criminology from the University of Cambridge and a Diploma in Criminal Justice from Birmingham City University.

Pictured: HM Prison Leicester.


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