Top experts debate the future of prisons

Reoffending rates are rising. Prisons are crowded.

So what are our jails for – rehabilitation, our protection or retribution?

Some of the top minds in the country will discuss the topic when London South Bank University (LSBU) hosts a topical guest lecture by the Howard League for Penal Reform, followed by a dynamic panel debate and discussion about the state of prisons in the UK on Wednesday 6 June. 

 The event, The True Cost of Prison, will take place at the University and panellists will include Rob Preece from the Howard League for Penal Reform – the oldest penal reform charity in the UK and Val Wawrosz, Managing Director and Co-Founder of Tempus Novo – an award-winning charity, that works with prisoners and ex-offenders to help them change the cycle of crime.  

The debate will be chaired by Professor Craig Barker, Dean of the School of Law and Social Sciences at LSBU, who is also the Leader for the Centre for Social Justice and Global Responsibility.  

 Professor Barker said: “We are delighted to host and participate in this debate, which raises important issues about the criminal justice system and the state of prisons today. LSBU’s Centre for Social Responsibility and Global Justice seeks to take a critical look at the nature and impact of social injustice, inequality and exclusion, both nationally and globally. This debate touches on many of those issues and by its very nature, will bring forward challenging, engaging and fresh ideas about prison reform.”   

The guest lecture will be given by Rob Preece, Communications and Campaigns Manager at The Howard League. Rob’s talk will include how to change prisons, what the current problems are regarding the prison system, how that point has been reached and then discuss how solutions can now be put in place. 

 Rob Preece said: “I’m pleased to take part in this debate and it’s great that LSBU have made the decision to look at the pressing issues affecting prisons today. The truth is that prisons around the country have continued to deteriorate and since Brexit, domestic concerns such as prison reform don’t get the Government’s attention as much as they used to.”  

 The prison system is one of the main concerns of LSBU’s Crime and Justice Research Group. The group has a strong focus on current policies in the criminal justice system, such as the recent disturbances in the prison estate, the disturbing high levels of violence in prisons and the increasing concerns around levels of self-harm and deaths in custody.  

Other researchers, led by Professor Eddie Chaplin at LSBU are working with Camberwell Magistrates Court, screening prisoners appearing in court on remand, for neurodevelopmental disorders (ADHD, autism and learning disabilities). The team’s previous research at Brixton prison, found that the lack of screening prisoners for these conditions, meant that vulnerable groups of prisoners had a greater risk of re-offending and a higher rate of mental illness and self-harm than prisoners without neurodevelopmental disorders.  

 Other panellists on the board include Jocelyn Hillman, the founder and CEO of charity Working Chance – which helps to place women with criminal convictions into jobs, Dr Chris Magill, a Senior Lecturer in Criminology at the School of Law and Social Sciences at LSBU and the lead for the LSBU’s Crime and Justice Research Group. Tajae Tyrell, a former LSBU student, who is a Criminologist and Senior Researcher, is also a panellist. She is currently working on a PhD about the rise of violence in UK prisons at the University of East London.


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