Bishop calls for 'sustainable prisons'

By staff writers
January 12, 2010

The Bishop of Liverpool will initiate a debate in the House of Lords this afternoon, to discuss the Government’s plans to make prisons more sustainable.

“I'm expecting the minister to answer positively and to give examples of some of the sustainable development initiatives that have already been taken within the prison estate” James Jones told

The Bishop believes that there are good economic reasons to use solar panels and wind energy in prisons as well as using the land for food production, to reduce waste and to recycle.

“A closed system like a prison is an ideal place to mirror the principle of recycling” he said ahead of the debate.

“Too often our institutions, communities, towns and cities model a linear approach, with resources fed in at one end and spewed out of the other end as waste.

“We need to remodel ourselves and adopt a cyclical approach, with a virtuous circle that re-invests the waste as energy. With a relatively small amount of public investment, prisons could become less of a burden on the public purse if they were designed to become more self-sufficient.”

The bishop will suggest however, that the economic benefits are only part of the vision. “The restorative benefits to the prisons would also be enormous” he said. “Engaging offenders in growing their own food, tending to animals, building a sustainable community and connecting to their natural environment, encourages a fundamental shift in behaviour, encouraging a sense of responsibility and self-worth.

“In the prisons where these programmes already exist there are reports of prisoner attitudes being completely transformed.

“Sustainable living on the inside has great potential to reduce offending on the outside. And that also reinforces the economic argument as the prison population declines.

“Sustainable prisons is a way of ensuring that prisons are not just warehouses for storing the incorrigible, but greenhouses for restoring the redeemable.”

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