Two pieces of news this week got me thinking about anger in UK prisons. Number one follows comments from the director of public prosecutions Keir Starmer QC, who says its time to make benefit cheats serve longer jail terms of up to 10 years. The second follows a Commons Justice committee reports that says more elderly sex offenders are being jailed than ever before.
Two pieces of news that make me wonder what effect it’ll have on the well-being of all prisoners in the system. Will an influx of elderly perverts tip the balance or will an increase in swindlers break the camels back and push the UK prison population into the red mist? After-all, convicted criminals aren’t exactly known for their gentle dispositions and tolerant natures.
Being deprived of your freedom is punishment enough, but prisoners must also deal with the constant supervision and control of their movements and interactions. Locked behind bars for up to twenty-three hours a day, left to stew over their own failings and stupidity, is enough to make anyone angry. Angry at themselves, the world, the system, their parents and God Almighty.
In fact, prison is the perfect place for anger to grow and prosper.
Controlling Anger in Prisons.
Anger management programmes have enjoyed a varying degree of success in UK prisons. At one point in 2006 the Home Office significantly scaled back their anger management courses citing them to be “counter-productive,’ after a City financier was killed by a prisoner who had just been released from prison after serving six years for attempted murder. He attended twenty-four sessions of an anger management course, which helped convince the parole board to let him go free, but with hindsight it was argued, the course had done nothing to tackle his violent behaviour.
From nearly fifty different programmes available covering alcohol, sex, reoffending and health programmes, prison chiefs acknowledge anger in UK prisons is an on-going problem in which they are still looking for solutions and programmes to deal with it.
Some call in the services of therapeutic practitioners, who use yoga and breathing techniques to help the men relax and control their aggression, while others use more accredited programmes such as CALM (Controlling Anger and Learning to Manage it) which is more of an emotional management programme, to ART (Aggression Replacement Training), which seeks to challenge offenders to accept responsibility for their crime and its consequences, to TSP (Thinking Skills Programme) which focuses on supporting offenders to develop skills in setting goals and making plans to achieve them without offending.
The British Association of Anger Management (BAAM) is also playing a role in UK prisons. Linda Bolland trained by BAAM one of the leading experts in the field of anger management runs programmes at HMP SEND in Surrey with excellent results, Mike Fisher has recently been commissioned to run programmes in a London Prison and is committed to support reducing reoffending rates amongst young offenders and in doing so helping reduce the cost of keeping someone in prison, which today stands at an average of £48,000 a year.
What makes prisoners happy?
Other than being let out early or better yet, getting away with a suspended sentence, a TV in their cell is a small luxury which no prisoner would scoff at. Though a TV makes a prisoner very happy, it evokes anger from the taxpayer, especially when its revealed hospital patients are charged £42 a week for watching TV, while prisoners are only charged £1 a week.
Striking the happy medium of keeping prisoners happy and keeping those paying for prisons happy is a delicate balancing act.
Its a Catch 22.
Stress leads to anger and anger leads stress, its a vicious circle. Being able to identify your anger for what it is and having the tools to step out of the circle of anger, is something anyone can achieve.
Mike Fisher and BAAM has helped over 16,000 people nationwide deal with their anger problems and continues to blaze new trails in the anger management world.