About The Prison Oracle

By Mark Leech
Editor: The Prison Oracle

 

 

 

How with self-belief dreams can become reality

 

Backstory: I once had a dream – well two really, but I’ll come to the second in a moment.

The first ‘dream’ started life 30 years ago, sitting in the large caged Reception cubicle at Wandsworth prison in south London, I was waiting for my prison escort to arrive to take me to Parkhurst Prison on the Isle of Wight – a journey that was destined to end in the House of Lords and change British prison law forever, but that’s another story.

It was in that caged cubicle that I found myself surrounded by a mixture of prisoners who had just arrived at Wandsworth and others, like myself, who were lucky enough to be leaving.

I sat and listened to the questions that went back and forth – between the worried new arrivals and the old-hand Norman Stanley Fletcher replies of those like myself who couldn’t wait to get out of there.

What’s it like here? What are the visits like? Is there any work available, and what are the wages like? What are the cells like? What about the food? Is it true they have a painting and decorating course? What’s the doctor like? Can I see a dentist while I’m here, and is there a waiting list? …..

These of course were exactly the same questions I had asked when I arrived at Wandsworth six months before – and they were exactly the same questions I would be asking again later that day when I arrived at Parkhurst .

During the journey that afternoon to Parkhurst I asked a Prison Officer: “Is there a reference book on Prisons?”

“No” came the terse reply – in a way that made it clear questions were not invited and comments were equally unwelcome.

Secretly though, there and then, I decided I was going to write that book.

“You? Write a book on Prisons Leech!”  The Parkhurst Wing Governor laughed and shook his head in disbelief as I told him of my plan during my Induction Interview a few days later.

Well today, 21 annual editions later, ‘that book’ – The Prisons Handbook – has become the 1,600-page definitive annual reference book on prisons for England and Wales that is sold all over the world.

One dream delivered – and another one was born.

In May 2018, having spent hours trying to locate a copy of The Woolf Report on the internet for some research and having had to give up exasperated at my inability to find it, I had another dream.

One place where everything on prisons was brought together, all under one roof, which was user-friendly, time-saving, comprehensive, totally independent, and where all the information about prisons was easy to find.

On the 1st October 2019 that dream too became reality when The Prison Oracle was born – its been 15 months in the making and since it’s launch just 10 days ago, it has already attracted hundreds of members – and won praise from former prisoners right up to former Director General’s of HM Prison Service too.

The Prison Oracle is about access to comprehensive prisons information, and saving time.

There is tons of information on prisons out there, but it is scattered across a whole range of websites where you have to search like an internet sniffer dog to track down what you want – ‘click next page’, ‘click next page’, ‘click to download’ – only to find at the end of it that the link is broken or the document you thought you’d found wasn’t what you were looking for.

Well those days are over.

Now, on The Prison Oracle, at last its here.

What’s on The Prison Oracle?

In short it’s everything “prison”

It has fully comprehensive, up-to-date- information on all 118 prison establishments in the country (but individual prisons are not even half of it) with access in each prison entry to their individual Inspection reports, IMB Reports, Facilities Lists, Fatal Incident Reports, details of all the key officials and suppliers of services to each prison all cross-referenced by taxonomies – you won’t find this anywhere else.

If you think this is just about information on individual prisons, well take a look at our Membership Plans and see exactly what you get – the Best Value Enhanced Membership costs less than £2.50 a week – less than the price of a coffee.

We have fully comprehensive databases such as….

Deaths in Custody Database
This has over 2,300 Fatal Incident Reports going right back to 2014, published by the Prisons & Probation Ombudsman, all listed on a single page (no ‘click next page’ here), showing the name of the establishment they were in and, what do not get anywhere else, all listed (since 1st March 2015) with the name of the deceased – if you have lost a friend or loved one in prison, now you can instantly find the report into their death and in just one click there is the report; – simple, just as it should be.

Prison Inspection Reports Database
This has over 800 Reports by HM Inspectorate of Prisons going right back to 2005, all listed on a single page (no ‘click next page’ here either), showing the name of the establishment, the date of the Report and in just one click there you have it – the Inspection Report; – simple, just as it should be

Independent Monitoring Board Annual Reports Database
This has over 1,100 IMB Annual Reports, going right back to 2010, all listed on a single page (and you’ve guessed it, no ‘click next page’ here too), just one click there is the report – simple, just as it should be.

Facts & Figures Database covers a huge range of, well, Facts and Figures lol.


We also have Vintage Publications too. Long before the internet became a tool of everyday life people resorted to something that were then known as printed ‘Reports’ – they were ink on paper and you had to go to a real shop and buy them. Then came the internet and humanity stumbled into a new and better digital age – but sadly many of these printed Reports never followed, today they lay hidden collecting dust in basements – despite their importance in historical terms, for researchers today they are gold dust.

But now they are here.

  • English Prisons Today (1922 – 654pp) The ‘Woolf Report’ of a century ago
  • English Prisons Under Local Government (1922 – 324pp) Volume 2 of ‘English Prisons Today’
  • The Woolf Report (1992 – 625pp) The Report into the Strangeways Riot of April 1990 and other riots at the time
  • The Woodcock Report (1995 – 160pp) Report into Security in Prisons and the escape of ‘Category A’ prisoners from Parkhurst Prison in January 1995
  • The Learmont Report (1994 – 32pp) Report into the escape of six Exceptional Risk ‘Category A’ Prisoners from the ‘impregnable’ Special Security Unit at Whitemoor prison in September 1994
  • The May Report   (1979 – 361pp) Report into UK Prison Services

 

  • Additionally we have more recent reports for speed and ease of reference
    • The Carter Report 2003: Managing Offenders, Reducing Crime: A new approach 2003. The report that lead to the creation of the National Offender Management Service – which was itself replaced by HM Prison & Probation Service in 2017
    • The Corston Report 2007: The blueprint report that called for a ‘distinct, radically different, visibly-led, strategic, proportionate, holistic, woman-centred, integrated approach to Women in Prison’
    • The IMB Governance Review 2014: An independent Review of the Governance of Independent Monitoring Boards

    With more coming soon….

The our comprehensive information on individual prisons is set out like never before – we use taxonomies (image below) for cross referencing which you won’t find anywhere else – take a minute to subscribe to a FREE Membership and have a look at an example.

The fully comprehensive information on every prison establishment in the country gives access to their individual Inspection reports, IMB Reports, Facilities Lists, Fatal Incident Reports, details of all the key officials and suppliers of services to each prison – the cross-referencing ‘taxonomies’ are all shown in blue links on the right hand side of every individual Prisons page.

Like everything on The Prison Oracle it is updated daily – and membership is growing every day.

I could go on and on, and on, there’s so much more, but I won’t take your time, just come on in, take a look – and never let anyone tell you that you cannot realise your dreams because you can – by turning ‘One Day’ into ‘Day One’ .

Mark Leech FRSA
Editor: The Prison Oracle
@prisonsorguk

What people are saying about The Prison Oracle

“An excellent collection of data and information” Phil Wheatley, former Director General HM Prison Service

“It’s been needed for years.. excellent…I have no hesitation in recommending The Prison Oracle to all my Correctional Services colleagues” Tony Hassall, Commissioner, Corrective Services, Western Australia

“My son is ten years over his IPP tariff and The Prison Oracle has given me access for next to nothing a week to information, rules, reports, regulations and prison information I could only dream of – thank you so much” Shirley M – Bournemouth

“In one word – ‘Brilliant’” Peter Dawson – Director Prison Reform Trust

“Honestly? It’s fantastic, I’m so pleased I joined” David Breakspear, former long term prisoner and now published author

“Stunning it’s what we’ve needed for years – worth every single penny” MCB – former long term prisoner and now working in prisons