Journalism, News

‘Our prisons have become death traps’

The dramatic  reports from the Ministry of Justice and the National Offenders Management Service will come as no surprise to anyone connected with the Prison Service.

For the last 18 months or more, the overwhelming story in our prisons has been one of mounting violence and insecurity, brought on by over-crowding, cuts to jobs and services, and a Government led programme to toughen up the “privileges” afforded to inmates.

The two reports published today show how this toxic mix has impacted on prison life over the last 12 months.

  • Overall, deaths in custody are up 24% – from 181 to 225
  • Self-inflicted deaths have gone up to their highest rate in a decade, up from 52 to 88 – an increase 69% in a year
  • Among male inmates, self-harm is also up from 16,399 to 17,474 (an increase 6.6% in a year)
  • Assaults (male) have gone from 13,573 to 14,491 (up 6.8% in a year)
  • Serious assaults (male) up from 1,277 to 1,661 (up 30% in a year)
  • Assaults on staff (male) up from 2,787 to 3,201 (up 14.9%)
  • Hospital attendances (male) up from 1407 to 1527 (up 8.5% in a year)

The NOMS report is equally bleak, with more than a fifth of prisons in England and Wales now seen as a “concern”.

In covering this story for VICE, I met dozens of people who told me the same thing. From inmates and governors, to lawyers and charity workers, the message was clear: the Prison Service was nearly at breaking point. Now, with the head of the Howard League for Penal Reform saying our jails have become “death traps”, it appears we’ve reached it.

Journalism, News

Tottenham’s stadium plans will force locals out of area

Tottenham Hotspur’s much discussed plan to build a new stadium could force people out of the area around White Hart Lane by driving up house prices and demolishing whole streets.

In this article for When Saturday Comes I spoke to local people about how the plans to regenerate Tottenham High Road as part of the stadium development would affect them.

Guardian journalist David Conn, who later published an in-depth investigation into the development plans, said of this article: “it’s a good piece of work; I was very impressed that you did it as a journalism student.”

You can read the full article, published in October 2013, here.


Journalism, News

Manchester’s homeless problem

Walk from Oxford Road to the Northern Quarter, and the thing that strikes you about about Manchester city centre is not the impressive Victorian architecture, but the sheer number of people sleeping rough.

The city has very few provisions in place to help the homeless population. In fact, the Narrowgate emergency night shelter is the only one of its kind serving Manchester and Salford and only has a small number of beds.

In two seperate articles for the Guardian in the summer of 2013, I explored Manchester’s homeless problem.  I intend to look at this issue in more detail later in the year. For the time being, you can find the two articles in the links below.

Salford homeless shelter forced to close after funding ruling (published May 15th 2013)

Closure threat returns for only emergency homeless shelter in Manchester and Salford (published July 10th 2013)