“Prisons don’t rehabilitate, they don’t punish, they don’t protect, so what the hell do they do?”
This quote, spoken by Jerry Brown, a California politician, certainly doesn’t tally with my experience at Kirkham Prison this week.
Serious crimes deserve serious sentences in prisons but, at the same time, rehabilitation is just as important to ensure people are directed away from a life of crime so they are no longer a threat to our communities.
So, having a prison within Fylde, I was very keen to have a look for myself, make sure it is being well run, to be confident there are no public safety concerns and see first hand the work which is being done.
And, even from my brief glimpse, it was very clear rehabilitation is the top priority.
There is also a large contribution to the community, work which was been commended to me in glowing terms before my visit, like gritting roads, sprucing up Kirkham and Wesham train station and planting flowers which helped Lytham In Bloom secure a national award.
Of course, HMP Kirkham is an open prison. It contains many inmates who have served lengthy sentences and may be ready to turn their back on crime for something better. I was pleased to see there was a cordial atmosphere.
Each inmate I spoke to seemed focused on the task in hand, be it a job within the walls, an outside placement which are granted to some close to release, low risk prisoners, or an educational or vocational training course.
From trades like bricklaying and catering to business studies, maths and English, there are a huge range of tasks devoted to giving these men options for the future. It’s not a case of being soft on inmates – alt-hough I understand when victims of crime say they would be happy to lock criminals up and throw away the key.
It’s about the reality of the situation – trying to prevent the crimes from happening again.
I’m not naive enough to think the prison won’t be without problems.
I’m sure there are many, which is to be expected in a prison with more than 500 convicted criminals.
However, if the country and the Government are to commit to creating a system which strives to prevent crime happening again, they could do a lot worse than to look at Kirkham as an example of how to do things.
I will be speaking to the Minister of State for Prisons, Crispin Blunt MP, as soon as possible to register my support for the prison and to urge their excellent work is aided and continued.