Chief Inspector of Prisons Peter Clarke recently described Birmingham Prison as the worst prison he had ever been to.

Inspectors found blood, vomit and rat droppings on the floor, staff asleep on duty, cockroaches and an overpowering smell of drugs.

According to the BBC news website, there were 1,147 assaults, including fights, recorded at Birmingham in 2017.

That’s more than three assaults every single day. Just imagine the fear running through the prison population.

How can a so-called civilised society like the UK with the world’s fourth largest economy deprive anyone of basic human decency?

We are all fond of saying inmates should not commit crimes if they don’t like prison but what happens when fate deals your cards from the bottom of the deck?

We have all seen children we knew were heading for a life behind bars as a result of their upbringing.

What about these poor souls?

What about those with mental health issues where prisons seem to have replaced hospitals as their sanctuary?

Are we so uncaring that we are prepared to see inmates living in fear, degradation and utter squalor? I don’t believe we are. I believe we would like prisoners given a genuine chance to reform in a safe, hygienic environment instead of locking them up in a filthy cell 23 hours a day.

That’s more likely to create hate and anger.

If we can’t control the drug trade in a closed prison why are we kidding ourselves we can do it outside on our streets? We are spending billions fighting the drug cartels and losing.

Surely it’s time for a new approach?

As it stands we are creating the perfect environment in our prisons for violence, terror and humiliation. Add to that the hygiene and care standards of Victorian cesspits and we are breeding the criminality we are allegedly trying to stop.

The chance of rehabilitation in those conditions is next to zero.

The penalty for crime is loss of liberty not loss of all human decency.

The incarceration of those with mental illness is the greatest crime of all.

By Vic Barlow