In the edition of a Question of Law, our guest, Vicki Prais, a human rights specialist on prisoners’ rights and dignity behind bars, will objectively assess the state of the UK’s prison system.
She’ll start by identifying the various types of prisons (4:15) and will give us an overview of the changes in the inmates’ population (5:15), providing insights on their ages, sentences, backgrounds (6:10) and health status (7:50).
Looking at the state’s obligations towards its detainees (8:20), i.e. to keep them safe, healthy and promote their rehabilitation, she’ll point out that they are enshrined in specific International treaties ( 11:15) and the Human rights Act (13:10).
She’ll then explain that the prison system is in crisis, engulfed with rampant violence, insecurities and overcrowding (14:30), which negatively impact staff’s safety and morale as a result of budget cuts (16:00). The deplorable state of prison conditions leaves inmates feeling dehumanised, which fuels staggering numbers of self-harm and suicide attempts (17:38).
COVID 19 has convoluted the situation even more. Despite positive attempts to curtail the risk of infection (19:28) and maintain communication with the outside world (21:13), detainees have been locked up in their cells for almost entire days (22.09) and deprived of most of their activities (23.12). The pandemic has also exacerbated the already alarming backlog of cases waiting to be heard by Criminal Courts. Virtual courts have swiftly been created (24:18); nevertheless, the backlog has reached such proportions that, in some cases, it compromises fairness and justice ( 23.51).
Vicki will then offer her views on improving the whole system by shifting from the concept of punishment to that of rehabilitation (25:08). Following immediate pragmatic actions (26:27), she suggests a review of the sentencing default system (27:12) with an emphasis on tackling the causes that drive people to jail in the first place (27:42). This would particularly benefit female inmates due to their generally shorter sentences but highly consequential on children (29:12).
Then Vicki will talk about her association with Human Rights Pulse (29:12), her own podcast, the passion factor (29:59), and her passion for mentoring young HR lawyers (31:10).
We will talk about self-care in relation to her emotionally draining roles (33:51) and how to cope (35.20). Finally, she’ll reveal what attributes human rights lawyers should have (37:01).
You can reach Vicki Prais on: