"No one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails".  Nelson Mandela


The Lentune Probus Club meeting was on Monday 9 October when our Speaker was Julia Killick CBE.  Her talk on "H M Prison Service" gave an amazing and eye-opening insight into the state of Britain's prison system. 

Julia started her career in London Local Authority Housing working for Hillingdon, Harrow and Brent before joining the Prison Service in 1998. Working at HMP Highdown, HMP Holloway and Young Offenders Institute Feltham as Head of Prisoner Care, Julia took charge of the Immigration Removal Centre Haslar, before moving to become Governor at HMP Guys Marsh in Dorset. In 2010 Julia returned to Holloway as Governor and with her team of staff cared for 590 women, raising standards and resettlement opportunities whilst reducing self harm, as recognised by consecutive HMP inspections. Women can be particularly manipulative prisoners. HM Prison Holloway was the largest women's prison in western Europe until its closure in 2016.

Julia retired in December 2015 and was awarded CBE for services to prisons in 2016.

Today, the total prison population in England and Wales is some 88,000.  Only Russia, USA and Turkey have greater prison populations,  per 100,000 people. The intended purposes of prison are punishment, rehabilitation, and the protection of society.

Overall, crime has been declining over the last ten years. And yet there are now longer sentences being handed down and offenders are spending longer periods in prison, with more people on remand for over two years before going to trial. Certain levels of serious crimehave remained static while other types of crime fluctuate. Ethnicity of the prison population has remained stable, made up as  73% White, 13% Black, 8% Asian, 5% Mixed and 1% Other ethnic groups.

Many prisons are overcrowded and prison buildings are not fit for purpose, with older prisoners not able to go upstairs. 14,000 prisoners are over 50 years of age, 2,000 are over age 70 and 400 over age 85. 

A 'life sentence' lasts for the rest of a prisoner's life; any release from prison results in spending the rest of life 'on licence' in the community. A break in licence conditions or committing another crime leads to being sent back to prison. Many prisoners (both men and women) may be sentenced for joint-enterprise crimes, resulting in a lot of disgruntled prisoners in jail.

Drugs form a considerable problem, both as a cause of crime and withinthe prison community. Fraud, computer misuse, sexual offences, domestic abuse and stalking all result in sentences of various lengths. Drugs are prevalent within jails because budgetary restraints do little to counteract delivery by drones, dead pidgeons or tennis balls over prison walls. While attempts at rehabilitation are made, prisoners of low educational attainment often show no interest in classes offered.

In conclusion , Julia painted a depressing picture of the current state of Britain's prisons, which she described as "deeply unpleasant" . Sentencing was particularly important factor with shorter sentences not being appropriate for low level crime.      

Julia Killick CBE is now a trustee of the Prison Reform Trust. 



On Wednesday, 4th October, 36 members and guests joined together for coffee & chat at 10am followed by a fascinating talk entitled “Keep your hair on”.

There had been much prior speculation as to which connotation of the phrase would be pursued in the talk!

Alan Jones, proved to be a lively speaker who kept the group entertained from beginning to end with his multitude of facts about human hair.

Apparently, we all naturally lose at least 100 hairs every day and from very early centuries it was realised how valuable hair was. Present day value is staggering. With a hank of naturally blond, totally unadulterated hair, being worth £250. Value follows in stages depending on the natural colour & whether it is curly or straight, the ultimate being red & curly, which is worth £1000.

During the 1700 & 1800’s ladies would remove hair from their hair-brushes and this kept in a china dish on their dressing tables. Keeping this hair was valuable and under hard circumstances could be sold! The strength of hair was fascinating, a thick plait of hair being capable of pulling a weight of several tons. Baldness was an interesting aspect of hair. There are several ways that men start balding - back, sides, the crown. Bizarrely, the royal family tend to start balding on the ‘crown’! This fact really amused several ladies.

Alan Jones gave us an amusing interlude as he sported a variety of wigs from Magistrates to pop stars! Unsurprisingly, these days, the majority of wigs are made in China.