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Prisongate: The Shocking State of Britain's Prisons and the Need for Visionary Change [Paperback]

David Ramsbotham
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

6 Oct 2003
Drugs and violence are rife in our filthy, overcrowded prisons. Women and underage prisoners are treated badly by staff and other prisoners alike. At a huge cost to the taxpayer and to society at large, prisoners repeatedly return to prison after re-offending. Even with greater understanding of why people turn to crime, the British prison service still adopts a Victorian punitive, rather than a rehabilitating, approach. This out-dated attitude must change if the British prison service and justice system are not to reach meltdown. During his time as Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Prisons, Sir David Ramsbotham was a thorn in Jack Straw's side. The government imagined he would be submissive; instead, shocked at what he found inside our prisons, he advocated radical reform but his suggestions were barely acknowledged by ministers and officials. In this book, he reveals the truth about Britain's prisons.


Product details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press (6 Oct 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743238842
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743238847
  • Product Dimensions: 22.9 x 16.3 x 3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,011,539 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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About the Author

Sir David Ramsbotham, GCB, CBE is an establishment figure and former Army general who was Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Prisons for five and a half years. Seeking prison reform, he was a thorn in the side of Jack Straw's government just when they thought he was going to be submissive.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
28 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Prisongate 10 Mar 2005
Format:Paperback
Ramsbotham D. (2003) Prisongate. Free Press (Simon and Schuster inc.). London. ISBN 0-7432-3884-2. 267 pages
Exposing the near meltdown in Britain's prison system, Prisongate contains much of interest to those with an interest in the state of Britains' prisons. The author, Sir David Ramsbotham, as Chief Inspector of HM Prisons - had unparalleled access for over 6 years to every prison in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Chapters on local prisons, the treatment of sexual offenders, resettlement prisons and women in prison all identify inadequate regimes, scarce resources and management failures; but the most shocking of his revelations involve mentally ill prisoners.
"All day long they lay down or sat beside their beds with nothing to do ... Other than medication, however, they received no day-care or any other kind of treatment programme."
p.110/111
The author suggests a figure of 500 prisoners requiring detention under the 1983 Mental Health Act. He cites 70 per cent of male and 50 per cent of all female prisoners as suffering from a personality disorder. These individuals were often young, unmarried, and charged with acquisitive offences (burglary, robbery or theft). Many had drug problems, were poor, and a significant number had experience of trauma often physical or sexual abuse. Many were 'short-term repeat offenders', serving serial sentences, whose coping skills were poor.
Throughout the book, prison health services appear under-staffed and ill equipped to deal with the scale or complexity of the apparent mental health. "Few, if any, mentally disordered prisoners anywhere in the prison system were cared for to normal NHS standards..." p.121. To compound the problem, transfer to NHS facilities was often slow or even impossible.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent read 16 Dec 2013
By sairz
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I ordered it because I am an ex prison officer and wanted to see if his views backed mine up. It has also helped me with uni work.
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6 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Splendid study of the state of Britain's prisons 16 Dec 2008
Format:Paperback
Former army general David Ramsbotham was Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Prisons from 1995 to 2001. He and his staff conducted 237 inspections, visiting every prison in England, Wales and Northern Ireland at least once. He tried to provide independent and objective quality assurance, based on facts.

His first visit, to the women's prison at Holloway in north London, was a 'horrific experience'. In 1984 its housing for mentally disturbed women 'could drive people mad' - it was dark, with rising damp, rats and cockroaches.

All but 24 of the 73,000 prisoners (when Ramsbotham wrote the book) will be released. The purpose of prison is to reform, to prevent re-offending, but it is failing. 58% of adults re-offend within two years of release, 78% of all offenders under 21 and 88% of children aged between 15 and 18. But settlement is still 'inconsistent, uncontrolled, and without operational supervision'.

Ramsbotham tells how a supplement of vitamins, minerals and fatty acids reduced serious offences by 37%. It would cost just 3.5 million a year to give it to every prisoner every day, from a prison budget of 2.8 billion. The Prison Service rejected this proposal. It also rejected his proposal to set up Housing Advice Centres in all prisons. He tells the horrifying story of the Prison Service's punitive raid on Blantrye House, one of Britain's best-run prisons, which had just an 8% re-offending rate.

He describes as 'the enemy' Home Office ministers, particularly Home Secretaries, and the people at the top of the Home Office and the Prison Service, who all fought his efforts to improve the prison service. They all follow Bill Clinton's cynical advice on crime - "don't let your opponents look tougher than you do.
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Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Splendid survey of the state of Britain's prisons 16 Dec 2008
By William Podmore - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Former army general David Ramsbotham was Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Prisons from 1995 to 2001. He and his staff conducted 237 inspections, visiting every prison in England, Wales and Northern Ireland at least once. He tried to provide independent and objective quality assurance, based on facts.

His first visit, to the women's prison at Holloway in north London, was a 'horrific experience'. In 1984 its housing for mentally disturbed women 'could drive people mad' - it was dark, with rising damp, rats and cockroaches.

All but 24 of the 73,000 prisoners (when Ramsbotham wrote the book) will be released. The purpose of prison is to reform, to prevent re-offending, but it is failing. 58% of adults re-offend within two years of release, 78% of all offenders under 21 and 88% of children aged between 15 and 18. But settlement is still 'inconsistent, uncontrolled, and without operational supervision'.

Ramsbotham tells how a supplement of vitamins, minerals and fatty acids reduced serious offences by 37%. It would cost just 3.5 million a year to give it to every prisoner every day, from a prison budget of 2.8 billion. The Prison Service rejected this proposal. It also rejected his proposal to set up Housing Advice Centres in all prisons. He tells the horrifying story of the Prison Service's punitive raid on Blantrye House, one of Britain's best-run prisons, which had just an 8% re-offending rate.

He describes as 'the enemy' Home Office ministers, particularly Home Secretaries, and the people at the top of the Home Office and the Prison Service, who all fought his efforts to improve the prison service. They all follow Bill Clinton's cynical advice on crime - "don't let your opponents look tougher than you do." Ramsbotham sums up that government policy in practice 'did not include the provision of decent and humane treatment of and conditions for prisoners'.

His wife observed, "If prison worked - we would be shutting prisons not opening them." But this government wants to build three new Titan prisons, against the united opposition of those who work with offenders.

Ramsbotham's approach, by contrast, is practical and fair: "Most prisoners, when treated with respect as human beings, can and will respond. Those who need medical treatment benefit when treated as patients first and prisoners second."
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