Unlock is extremely fortunate in enjoying the support of some incredible Patrons, so when our President Lord Ramsbotham suggested Nick Hardwick would be a valuable addition having stepped down as Chief Inspector of HM Prisons earlier this year, well, we were only too pleased to take his advice and invite Nick to join us. We were even more pleased when Nick accepted our invitation to become a Patron.
Whilst in post at the Inspectorate, Nick was notoriously outspoken in his criticism of the prison system, which didn’t always go down well with some government officials. Impervious to any interference in carrying out his duties, he railed against disgusting conditions, the shocking level of violence and suicide, and the dysfunction of YOIs. Perhaps it is little wonder then that after six years of witnessing such a system that stubbornly refused to change, he wasn’t sad to leave the job.
On doing so, he is reported as saying “I’m surprised by how much I don’t like being in prison. Although I have keys and can get out at any time, and I regard myself as pretty resilient, it’s the noise, the echo, the clanging, the claustrophobia, the sense that even if you’ve got keys you’re shut in, and the unhappiness.”
“I didn’t understand the degree to which, once you lock someone up, even in the best prisons for a short period of time; that is a very severe punishment indeed. It’s as bad as you could possibly imagine and possibly more so, and don’t think a little flat-screen television in the corner is going to alleviate it, because it doesn’t.”
Unlock’s helpline is contacted daily by people with convictions who struggle to move on in their lives – some have been to prison, others not. It’s the conviction that causes problems not the sentence, though undoubtedly imprisonment brings its own barriers to overcome. One of the problems of prisons, pronounces Nick, is that they don’t prepare you to return to society. “What a good prison does is teach you to be a good prisoner, so it teaches you to be compliant, not to use your initiative, to do what you’re told, to rein in your emotions, and that isn’t necessarily what you need to do to be a good citizen, or a good parent.”
Now Chair of the Parole Board, and part-time Professor in Criminal Justice at the School of Law, Royal Holloway University of London, Nick brings to Unlock a wealth of experience and knowledge, not only of prisons but also of his years in working for the voluntary sector beforehand.
He declares, “I am really pleased to have this opportunity to support Unlock whose work I have admired for a long time. We all sometimes need a chance to make a new start – and this is particularly true of former prisoners. It is in no-one’s interest to put unnecessary obstacles in the way of building a new productive and law-abiding life – it harms not just former prisoners themselves but their families and the communities of which they are part. Unlock has won praise for the work they have done to help prisoners make the transition through the prison gates and I am pleased to be able to support them.”
Welcome on-board Nick.
Julie Harmsworth, Co-director
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