This week's thought is by the Stroud Quaker Local Meeting.

Lockdown two seems harder than the first.

The RT Rev Rachel Treweek, Bishop of Gloucester, Church of England Bishop for Women’s Prisons, offered us this pertinent reflection as her introduction to Prisons Week 2020.

“Prisoners know all about lockdown in ways which are far starker than the ‘stay at home’ experience people have lived during the viral pandemic.

However, beyond the walls of prison people of all ages have had to learn how to navigate uncertainty and many people feel fearful, bewildered and out of control…. all of this is experienced within the walls of prisons 365 days a year.”

Most of us know little about the criminal justice system.

It was not an area we learnt about in school.

Yet, “lock them up and throw away the key’ has become a commonplace reaction.

In planning to build more prison places and lengthen sentences, the government seeks popularity rather than real solutions.

Despite the best efforts of prison staff, prison does not work.

Punishment and retribution without rehabilitation does not buy our safety.

Prison is an expensive failure.

Prisoners with mental health problems, learning difficulties, addictions or a youth spent in care needed help which few will find inside, and prison is likely to do further damage.

The release of prisoners on indefinite sentences may now be delayed by more than a year, however exemplary their behaviour.

Many prisoners have been locked in their cells for 23hrs a day, unable to access courses their rehabilitation requires, education, work or the library.

Not all have running water in their cells.

The staff and inmates of our prisons have co-operated to stop Covid19 decimating our ageing prison population.

They need our support.

So if the pandemic has brought us extra space for reflection, perhaps we can consider how the enormous resources eaten up by the prison system could be re-targeted to support struggling new families with preschool children and people with neurological challenges, addictions and mental health problems.