Reflections on prison HIV nursing

Martin Jones
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’ [1] 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’ [2]. 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 [3], evidence that ‘if you build it, they will come’ [4]. 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 [5]. 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…