Clinical Nurse Specialist, East Sussex Healthcare, NHS Trust
I am starting to write this reflection in the wake of riots in prisons in Bedford, Birmingham and Lewes and with a NHIVNA Conference invited lecture date in June on the horizon. HIV nursing has always been a political activity; nursing in prisons is no different, so I’ll start with a couple of recent prime ministers.
Whilst in opposition Tony Blair declared that any future Labour government should be ‘tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime’  and in 1997 this was a key manifesto pledge. In February 2016 David Cameron became the first serving prime minister in 20 years to make a speech about prison policy: ‘We need a prison system that doesn’t see prisoners as simply liabilities to be managed, but instead as potential assets to be harnessed’ . So how did we end up with a wave of riots in late 2016?
Since 1993 the UK’s average annual prison population has increased from 44,552 to more than 85,626 , evidence that ‘if you build it, they will come’ . Theresa May’s government has already distanced itself from Cameron’s Queen’s Speech prison reforms. While the number of prisoners has increased, the number of prison officers has decreased by 15% since 2013 on top of a 30% fall between 2010 and 2013 . Cameron drew attention to unacceptable levels of violence, drug-taking, self-harm and suicide, bemoaning the re-offending rate within a year of release, which is 46% in all prisoners and 60% for those on short sentences. Read more…