THOUSANDS OF innocent and often vulnerable people are held on remand in British prisons. And too often they are driven to commit suicide, according to a new report by the Prison Reform Trust. The trust says that 36 prisoners awaiting trial committed suicide last year-that's the equivalent of a death every ten days.
There are currently some 50,000 locked up on remand in jails in England and Wales, often suffering the worst conditions, locked up for 22 hours a day in prisons with limited access to showers and no exercise. The chair of the Prison Reform Trust, Juliet Lyon, says, 'How many more people need to die in prison while awaiting trial before the Home Office accepts that it is unjust to lock up vulnerable people for up to 22 hours a day in vile conditions with restricted access to legal information?'
Prison hurts kids
A REPORT by the National Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders says the government's overuse of detaining and imprisoning children is 'damaging and counterproductive'. Incarcerating children, who are often the victims of abuse and neglect, leads to an increase in self harm, suicide and continued offending.
Some 80 percent of 14 to 17 year olds released from young offender institutions in 1998 were reconvicted within two years.
Not backing Blair
ONLY A fifth of local Labour parties in constituencies with a Labour MP are sure it was right to attack Iraq. A quarter thinks the government lied to them about its reasons for attacking Iraq. Just 22 percent of the 92 Labour constituencies that responded to the Independent on Sunday survey said they supported the war, with 53 percent against, 18 percent split and 7 percent not wishing to comment.
When Peter Davies, chair of the Burton constituency party, was asked whether the government told the truth about Iraq, he replied, 'Categorically not.'
Babies in danger
A NATIONAL shortage of midwives means thousands of babies are being born on unsafe maternity wards. A recent study of seven maternity units in the north west of England over one week found 15 'near misses' and one incident in which a baby nearly died. In one case a mother had her emergency Caesarean delayed for two hours, despite a dangerous foetal heart rate, because of a shortage of midwives. Researcher Brenda Ashcroft from Salford University said that all the wards they visited suffered from staff shortages.
Privatisation is disconnecting
MORE THAN three million people are struggling with energy bills, 4.7 million are in debt to their water company and more than one million have had their phone cut off.
Every winter an extra 20,000 to 50,000 people die because their homes are too cold.
Last year, 23,000 households in England and Wales were disconnected from energy supplies.
An estimated 1.4 million 'disconnected themselves' because they didn't have the money for pre-payment meters or were frightened of running up expensive bills.
The one million households who are disconnected from their fixed telephone line must pay up to £75 to get reconnected.
These are some of the facts in a new report from the National Consumer Council (NCC). It shows that privatisation has increased the level of cut-offs. As many as one in five households cannot pay their water bills and owe £781 million, but cannot legally be disconnected from water supplies.
Deirdre Hutton, chair of the NCC, says, 'So severe is the problem that some people resort to using candles instead of lights, not using the oven, burning rubbish in the fireplace and sleeping in the living room to save on heating.' Go to www.ncc.org.uk
Tax burden hits poor hardest
CARE HOME residents will suffer a higher rate of taxation than millionaires as a result of the new pension credit rules. The new system will mean older people with savings living in care homes will lose up to 70 percent of the benefits they would have received in their own home.
According to the Citizens Advice Bureau, a 75 year old man in residential care in Lincoln would be entitled to £9.93 under the pension credit. But the most he is allowed to keep is £4.50. The rest will be clawed back by the local authority. As a result, he is paying the equivalent of nearly 55 percent tax. Millionaires pay a 40 percent rate.
New spies on every corner
THE GOVERNMENT plans to give sweeping powers to a wide range of organisations to spy on us. A whole range of agencies will be authorised to run undercover surveillance operations under the government's Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act. These include the Home Office, the health department, the Department of Work and Pensions, the transport department, councils and the Post Office.
They will be able to collect personal details about the use of phones and e-mails. Even your local council will get the power to employ 'covert human intelligence officers'.