Prision in United Kingdom
The unhappy consequence of the ever-rising prison population is an inevitable decline in the quality of regimes offered to prisoners. The practical effects for prisoners can be seen in the reports prepared by the Chief Inspector of Prisons which contain a seemingly never-ending catalogue of concerns about the prison estate.
There are an increasing number of criminal practitioners seeking to provide a service to their clients after conviction. Despite this, there remains no professional accreditation for prison lawyers and so it can be difficult for prisoners to make informed choices about their representation. It is to be hoped that this is a problem that will be addressed in the future to ensure that prisoners can have the same confidence in their choice of legal representation as the rest of the public.
Unfortunately, the depressing state of the United Kingdom prisons seems to generate little interest in the wider public and, with politicians committed to being tough on crime, it is difficult to see any voices that can reshape the moral tone of the debate. At one stage it had been hoped that the enactment of the Human Rights Act would help create a culture which was more respectful and tolerant of universal rights. However, as the only mechanism available to create that culture has been legal action, it is perhaps unsurprising that this has not happened.
The courts express little interest in looking beyond short-term political expediency in reaching decisions on prisoners’ cases, rather than adopting a more enlightened approach to basic human rights principles. Increasingly, it seems that prisoners are once more having to take their arguments to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg in order to obtain principled decisions.