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Tajae Tyrell talks prison reform ahead of LSBU debate

PICTURED: Tajae Tyrell

Q: Tell our readers about yourself

A: Growing up in south London, I always dreamed of becoming a lawyer. However, I left school with little to no GCSE’s but secured by first job at the age of 15 earning £10 for the day working in Brixton Market.

I had a few career changes from working in retail to visiting different countries as a flight attendant and it wasn’t until my late twenties when I commenced my first degree in Criminology at London South Bank University, which enhanced my determination to work within the Criminal Justice Sector and hopefully make difference to those less fortunate than me.

2. For those who are not aware, why are prisons in the UK in need of reform?

A: Prisons were initially built to protect society from those who were deemed to be violent or had broken the law of the land whilst ensuring that whilst they were incarcerated they [the prisoners] would be rehabilitated through interventions to eradicate drug and/or alcohol misuse, basic skills to gain employment and even courses in order to provide prisoners a sense of achievement.

However, that doesn’t appear to be the case within today’s prisons system and we are seeing prisons being overcrowded with the latest figures according to the Ministry of Justice showing the current prison population at 83,673 as of the end of May, 201(MOJ,2018)

Violence within our prisons is also another reason why our prison system needs to be reformed. Now, some may say that this is linked to “gangs”, and to some extent this may be true especially if you have prisoners that had previous altercations from different areas, only to be housed in a confined space with an individual that they may see as an enemy

However, it is also worth pointing out that it is not just prisoner on prisoner violence that is up by 11% with 21,270 incidents being recorded in 2017 according to the Ministry of Justice (MOJ, 2017).

Prison Officers have also fell victims to violence whilst carrying out their duties, with a 8,429 assaults on staff in 2017 alone. The level of violence alone for 2017 is one of the major factors that indicate that there is an urgent need for changes to be made to our Prison System.

Q: What are some of the key issues affecting prisons in the UK?

A: Some of the key issues affecting Prisons in my opinion is overcrowding, violence and rehabilitation

Q: In your opinion, where is change already taking place?

A: There are a few changes taking place, staffing levels have been increased and there are increasing recommendations being made for prison governors to allow more prisoners out on temporary release so that they can engage in employment and training.

Q: What can people expect from the debate?

A: The debate will look at the true cost of prisons from different angles such as the financial, mental and emotional implications not just to an offender but also society as a whole. There will be key speakers some of whom work with prisoners upon release to assist them into employment, education or training. There will also be a guest lecturer that has conducted in depth research on the Prison System.

There will also be an opportunity for questions to be put to the panel members at the end and a chance to share and gain knowledge which could assist in the need for more work to be done to ensure our prison system is fit for purpose and rehabilitation.

Q: What do you hope to conclude from the debate?

A: I hope to gain more of an insight and an in-depth understanding into the prison system, which I can then use towards my research. I am also looking forward to meeting and networking with members of the public some of whom work in the prison system on the frontline, so that I can hear their views and opinions first-hand.

The True Cost of Prison debate at London South Bank University takes place Wednesday 6 June at their Southwark Campus - Keyworth Centre, from 5.30pm-8.00pm. Find out more here:

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