I entered the prison system 60 years ago. It’s never been so chaotic and dangerous Reply

Shades of Emma Goldman.

Eric Allison

The Guardian

Prisoner looking through bars

I have been a student of the prison system since I first entered it in 1957. I was around when a bread and water diet was part of the punishment process, and even had a taste of it. And I lived through major prison riots in Parkhurst, Hull and Strangeways, circa 1990.

Following the Woolf Report that followed the Strangeways riot a year later, a Guardian leader spoke of the “mandarins who condoned and defended a prison system that in all practical ways is an affront to our definition of civilisation.” Pre-riot, I spent years in the conditions that leader attacked, then served more time in the better environment that report brought about.

But I say, hand on heart, I have never seen the system in such a chaotic and dangerous state as it is now. Where to begin in chronicling the deep malaise? Soaring death rates, from homicidal, self-inflicted and natural causes; violence levels at an all-time high; prisons awash with drugs; and overcrowding and understaffing the norm in many jails.

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