Reform, Welfare and Prisoners’ Health Rights, 1850-2000

Reform, Welfare and Prisoners’ Health Rights

Holly Dunbar

In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, various groups (like the Howard League, the National Association of Discharged Prisoners’ Aid Societies (NADPAS), the National Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders (NACRO), Northern Ireland Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders (NIACRO) and Radical Alternatives to Prison (RAP)) advocated for and provided healthcare to discharged prisoners’ and their families in England and Ireland. This medical assistance ranged from ensuring access to the basics needed to maintain health, to offering palliative care and minor medical treatments. The organisations were keen to gain monetary support from the public, so respected popular views of criminals as a diseased part of society which required reform to benefit other citizens. At the same time they valued helping individuals and their families simply because they were in need. They were also involved in health promotion. Central to contemporary and historic discussions of ex-prisoners’ health is alcohol consumption. This strand will consider treatments for alcohol abuse, exploring the work of organisations which regularly assisted ex-prisoners, such as Alcoholics Anonymous.

There was some local variation between the healthcare offered to released prisoners. Equally, there were notable gender differences in how men and women were treated on release from prison, and this project will consider the ideals and assumptions that underpinned these different approaches. This strand will also explore the evolving relationship between prisoners’ aid groups and the State, as well as religion, in offering healthcare. It will ask what healthcare was provided to ex-prisoners and their families? Where this aid came from? How it was financed? And what the motivations behind providing medical assistance to ex-prisoners were?

Image Credit

‘The A.A Pointer’, Journal of the First English Prison Group, Wakefield Prison, (1975)

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