The next crisis will surely be in prisons. For years, they have been underfunded and overcrowded breeding grounds for crime, drug abuse and mental health decline. When, not if, Covid-19 spreads throughout the prison population it will be an avoidable catastrophe.
As we prepare for another week of national lockdown, my fellow prisoners and I receive a missive from Phil Copple, the director general of prisons, offering thanks for “your patience and cooperation as we work through this difficult time”. These are calming words of reassurance – but do they reflect the reality of life in prison during the coronavirus pandemic?
As the whole nation grapples with isolation, sombre news updates, supply shortages and fear of an unknown future, is being in prison, as I am, a blessing or a curse?
Our local management team of governors is visible and attempting to cope with a rapidly changing picture. We have cases of Covid-19 inside our prison, with prisoners hospitalised and a number being isolated. Like all UK prisons, overcrowding is a big issue here, with many inmates sharing cramped cells for 23 hours every day. Communal showers, laundry procedures, the need for exercise, and healthcare facilities limit the true meaning of social distancing.
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