Non-nationals feel the pains of imprisonment most acutely. This is often a result of problems of language, the lack of information, isolation from family and friends, and in particularly the uncertainty which is associated with knowing little about the operation of the criminal justice system and as a consequence being unsure about procedures and the length of time involved for cases to be heard and decided. Foreign nationals are less likely to be given bail and may not be eligible for home release or benefit from early release policies. For these reasons foreign prisoners tend to become marginalized in the world of the marginalized.
Foreign prisoners on remand experience specific difficulties in relation to the initial notification to their families, the general lack of outside contact and in particular not knowing how long they will remain in custody (Matthews 1999). Many studies have reported along the same line – prisoners do experience imprisonment differently, according to race. It is not the case that 'the prison service is committed absolutely to a policy of racial equality and to the elimination of discrimination in all aspects of its work' and more needs to be done to meet the specific needs of prisoners.
Young Offenders are also another group of prisoners that may have specific needs. During the nineteenth century young people were no longer seen as 'little adults', but rather as persons still in the process of personal development who were not, as yet, fully responsible for their actions. The juvenile delinquent was seen as a product of faulty socialisation, inadequate parental supervision, or a lack of proper education. Prisons today have to recognise that young offenders have been subject to more than older offenders, such as a troubled home life, including poor parenting, criminal family member, violence of abuse.
Peer group pressure also counts along with poor attainment at school, truancy and school exclusion. Drug and alcohol abuse is also more likely to be prevalent amongst the young offenders and many have suffered mental illness or absolute deprivation such as poor housing or homelessness. According to the Guardian (http:// www. guardian. co. uk), more than 300 schoolchildren in prison are not receiving the education they need. ''Young offenders face a lottery when it comes to training, a survey by the Howard League found, with classes frequently cancelled in some prisons, and teachers often lacking teaching qualifications''.
The findings suggest prison is less likely to prevent future crime, says the charity. The Howard League (http://web. ukonline. co. uk/howard. league/) visited all 13 of the prisons holding boys and spoke to a third of all 15-year-olds. It found a quarter had been studying for GCSE exams before being sent to prison. A fifth had special educational needs and over a third found reading and writing difficult. Prisons were not offering special help to boys who could barely read or write, while offenders who had been studying GCSEs at school were often unable to continue with their work in prison.
Boys with special educational needs received no extra support and there is a link between young offenders and dyslexia. Religion is yet another issue in assessing whether or not prison meets the needs of prisoners in contemporary society. The present arrangements for the employment of prison chaplains are singular – every prison has the right to its official prison chaplain who must be an ordained priest of the Church of England.
Every prison also has a Roman Catholic chaplain, while a Methodist minister represents the non-conformist faiths. The Home Office has in addition a list of other religions whose ministers they will agree to fund (Devlin 1998). Some prisons can call upon the services of a local Imam, who would be funded by the prison service. But to receive funding for an Imam or a Sikh minister, for instance, the prison must have some Muslim or Sikh prisoners in custody.
In April 1997 one women's prison had a Methodist minister who was paid for ten hours a week although there was only one Methodist prisoner; whilst the Pentecostal minister was paid to come in for only four hours a week, though Pentecostal prisoners formed the largest group due to the popularity of this faith with the high percentage of black women held in that prison (Devlin 1998). In a society like ours, in an age like ours it would have to be argued that prison is failing the needs and rights of certain prisoners.
Due to the secularisation process, there are many different types of religion and due to the ethnic backgrounds represented by prisoners, there are many prisoners with different religious beliefs. In a multi cultural society such as the one in which we live, every prisoner is going to vary and have different needs. It is the role of HM Prison Service to meet these needs. Life-sentence prisoners will have different needs to those with short sentences; pregnant women will have different needs to Asian prisoners and disabled prisoners will have different needs to young offenders.
Naturally, every need can not and will not be catered for but it is the job of the service to find out and provide for the most fundamental needs, such as provision of nappies, a minister from the correct religious faith, education and perhaps, a special diet. It has been demonstrated that the prison service is not meeting the needs of prisoners in prisons today but there is also evidence that shows that they are trying to cater for the needs of the majority with the funding that they receive.