Updated in 2015, the Nelson Mandela rules are the United Nation’s Standard Minimum Rules for the treatment of Prisoners. They are exceptionally useful to know if you or a loved one are in Prison. If you ever find yourself in a position where you need to argue for better conditions, it’s always good to have some International Law which backs up your point. Watch a video about them below or read the full rules here.
By CJ Walters
I know some people are struggling with quarantine/isolation so I wanted to give some concise advice as I have a lot of experience being stuck behind a door with very little to do:
-Get into a schedule. Start small. Just set an alarm and wake up at the same time every day, even if it’s to go watch five hours of Netflix on the couch.
-Motivation does not usually come before you start the task, so don’t wait for it, but it will surprise you by arriving when you begin. Sitting down to write one paragraph is an achievable goal and it might just turn into a lot more. Those ten push ups might become fifty. Just begin the task and see how you feel.
-Exercise at least every second day. Not only does it help you stay strong physically but it will also stop you from developing aches and pains, as well as benefit your mental health. There are loads of bodyweight exercises: lunges, squats, push ups, sit ups, etc. Add in a chair or resistance bands and the sky’s the limit.
-Set yourself three small goals a day. They can be super basic. Today mine are: buy groceries, exercise, and write this note. Anything you do after that is just extra achievement.
-Think of your own needs. Are you an extrovert lacking interaction? Start a Zoom call and play Cards Against Humanity online. Are you creative and need to make something? Take some time out to write, or paint, or sing. Do you just need to just lie in bed another hour today? Do it.
-If you’re so inclined, learn a new skill. There’s language exchange apps and then there’s a YouTube video for almost everything you might want to know.
-Be grateful for what you have. There are people trying to make do with a lot less than we have right now
-Don’t be too hard on yourself. It’s a tough time. You’re not being lazy. Just remember that by sitting on your sofa, eating your fourth bowl of cereal, and wondering if you’ll ever wear something without an elastic waistband again – you’re saving lives.
Essential for a Free and Fair Society
by CJ Walters
A prisoner’s right to vote is a litmus test for whether a Government trusts in the fairness of its own policies. The very principle of imprisonment is that a small minority of people are being separated from society in order to protect the majority. If that minority ever grows so large that their vote could sway an election then the very principle is rendered invalid. Something in society must change for those scales to tip back the other way and that growing minority must be a part of it; otherwise they are political prisoners – their votes deliberately suppressed.
Let me give you an example from history. During his time as President Richard Nixon had two main sources of opposition: the anti-Vietnam war movement and African Americans. He couldn’t openly lock up them up for protesting or for being black; so instead he started his War on Drugs. He used it as a casus belli to go after both groups. That way he could imprison them thereby suppressing both their opposition and their vote.
This War on Drugs has continued along with many other policies that disproportionately target Black, Asian, and Minority Ethinic (BAME) groups as well as the poor of all ethnicities. You’re more likely to be incarcerated if you are BAME, come from a broken home, if you don’t have stable accommodation, and if you have an addiction – where you will then lose your right to vote. But those are arguably the people we need to hear from most, those that are personally experiencing the issues that are in one way or another affect all of society. Instead, you are most likely to turn up to vote if you are over 65 and white.
Currently, anyone who is released from prison in the UK gets their right to vote reinstated. It’s also worth mentioning that if you are fortunate enough to be at an open prison it is possible for you to vote if your Release on Temporary Licence happens to line up with the correct day, but it is extremely unlikely the authorities would allow you out for that specific purpose.
The right to vote should be a Human Right for those of legal age and every prisoner should retain that right. If that would make politicians think twice then good. They might more carefully consider who they are putting in jail and exactly what kind of rehabilitation they’re offering.
Are longer sentences the answer?
By CJ Walters
A lot of people are commenting on the recent terror attack in Streatham by Sudesh Amman who have very poor understanding of the British criminal justice system so let’s clear a few things up, for anyone interested.
To say he was released “early” or that he “convinced a parole board”, two statements that have been making the rounds, is misleading at best and complete rubbish at worst. Anyone in England who is given a determinate sentence is automatically released at halfway and then they serve the other half on licence (probation) in the community. The key word there is automatically. You could be the rudest prisoner and have zero remorse for your actions and still be released at halfway. Even if you smuggle a phone into the prison, or are caught using drugs, you will most likely only serve a few extra weeks past the half-way point. So people don’t like that? That’s fine, let’s talk about the alternatives then.
You could say we’re going to put some people in prison for an indeterminate amount of time and they have to convince a parole board they won’t reoffend. We already do that for life sentences, but maybe we should do that for other sentences too? Guess what, it’s been done; and it was an unmitigated disaster. The sentence was called an IPP and it ruined lives, with an underfunded and under resourced system people that were supposed to be doing a relatively short sentence ended up stuck in the system for years, and even if they got out, they were often returned to prison for years sometimes due to relatively minor infractions. The government abolished the IPP in 2012.
Well what if we brought it back for terror offenses? Well not many people would raise objections to keeping convicted terrorists in prison longer, but the IPP was already deemed a failure. What if we didn’t release those convicted of terror offences at the halfway point? Sure, but then don’t you want them monitored in the community after their release? So you would double their sentence and double their licence period? Okay, fine, double the sentences for terror offences but I’m telling you now – that will not solve the problem.
What we need is for the prison system to be better funded. It doesn’t matter how long you send someone away if they are not being rehabilitated. If you put someone in a cage and treat them like a dog they will not come out and be a decent member of society. We need to ensure that all of our prisons are up to a minimum standard of decency. Rather than some offenders being put onto generic courses there needs to be a focus on individual needs – a plan to combat reoffending tailor made for that offender. There is already a framework for this but not the necessary money, staff, or resources. Anyone who thinks that prison is too soft in this country hasn’t ever been – and doesn’t understand that it’s the going to prison that strips you of everything and is your punishment – once inside it’s the prison’s job to build that person up again in the right way.
But the issue is bigger than just the prison system. It begins before then. Cuts to local services that make it ever harder to climb out of poverty. Institutionalised racism. War in the Middle East. The bombings of civilians chalked up to ‘collateral damage’. The rendition and torture of men, some from the UK, perpetrated by the US in cahoots with the British Government. The fact that Guantanamo Bay still exists. But don’t for a second think I am making excuses for any crime or act of terror – of course not – it is simply important that we understand and address these factors if we want to stop it from happening again.
It’s all very well the public baying for blood and the Conservative government wanting to look ‘Tough on Terror’ but the goal should be reducing (re)offending – not slaking the public’s thirst for vengeance. Remember, no matter how much you increase someone’s sentence they are almost certainly going to be released one day. Do you want someone reentering society who has been broken and neglected or built-up and improved?