'The Myth Of Rehabilitation' by John Bowden, long-term radical prisoner (UK)

From a comrade of Brighton ABC:

Before Christmas the Chief Inspector of Prisons and the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman publicly criticised the prison system for failing to reform and rehabilitate repeat offenders.

The role of both government sponsored bodies is fairly questionable these days, when, for example, the existence of the barbaric “Close Supervision Centre” system raises nothing but a conspicuous silence from them, but are they so
completely out of touch with the reality of how the prison system is being re-shaped by Chris Grayling and his neo-liberal agenda that they believe that “rehabilitation” actually exists even as a vague concept any more?

Even in it’s heydays, first during the Victorian era when the concept of prisons as places of penance (penitentiary) and redemption fashioned regimes (often brutally), and the 1970s when a more politically fashionable idea of rehabilitation sort of influenced long-term regimes, the idea that “offenders” could be transformed in to “model citizens” by the experience of incarceration was a decidedly dubious one. And at a time when prisons and prisoners are increasingly seen as a source of financial profit and a sort of popularised retribution is characterising prison regimes the “rehabilitation revolution” has surely been put to bed permanently.

The truth is of course that as institutions prisons have always and inevitably been places of straight forward incarceration and punishment, damaging both to the prisoner and wider society is the way they create and perpetuate an
alienated and marginalised criminal underclass. It was always the liberal and supposedly enlightened middle class who held the strange belief that the hate factories that are prison could also be places where positive social values could be inculcated and the criminalised outsider somehow transformed in to an obedient citizen. The total fallacy of that idea and belief is surely obvious by now, and yet it apparently prevails amongst “experts” like the prisons inspectorate and prisons ombudsman, who, incidentally, have yet to report on a prison regime remotely rehabilitative in nature. Both the prisons inspectorate and prisons ombudsman complain that the prison system is not positively improving it’s inmates or doing anything to prevent re-offending, and yet in terms of it’s own supposed agenda in monitoring and improving the treatment of prisoners both bodies have become as discredited as the Independent Police Complaints Commission. Maybe a true test of their commitment to rehabilitate prison regimes would be their readiness to publicly criticise Chris Grayling, although we sort of know that is never going to happen.

John Bowden
HMP Shotts
January 2014

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This entry was posted on Friday, January 10th, 2014 at 3:12 pm and is filed under Prison Struggle.