Extremely important new publication from the Catholic Bishops of England and Wales addressing the huge increase in our prison population and the basic issues this raises. The prison population in England and Wales in 2004 reached its highest level ever recorded. It is almost double what it was in 1991 (full statistics provided in this new book). We now have particularly high numbers of women, black people, young people and even the elderly behind bars. Suicide in prison is up 40 per cent, staff sickness is higher than ever, drug use is widespread and access to education and rehabilitation programmes is being cut. On some prison wings slopping out has been brought back. Our prisons are a public disgrace. We now have proportionally the highest prison population in Western Europe. Christian anthropology makes clear that this offends against human dignity and the common good. The Catholic Church is committed to justice, mercy, the rights of the individual in society and not least hope and redemption.
This is why this important new publication has been prepared as a significant contribution of the Roman Catholic Church in this country to a situation which is already a crisis but which could turn into a disaster. This book will be of interest to all those interested in the dignity of the human being- not just from a religious perspective but in a way to appeal to all people of good will. There are many reforming agencies in the UK- the Howard League, 7The Bridge - but this book also takes the form of a plea to government and to all those in authority who are concerned with our prison services.
The book is compiled by many experts on behalf of the Catholic Bishops of England and Wales.