Interview: Joyce Moseley - 'Don't get hooked up on the fact that the doors are locked'

The chief executive of youth offending charity Catch22 tells Stephen Cook why voluntary sector organisations are well placed to help run prisons

Joyce Moseley, chief executive, Catch22
Joyce Moseley, chief executive, Catch22

Joyce Moseley takes a pragmatic approach to whether charities should get involved in delivering services that involve locking people up and punishing them.

Moseley is chief executive of Catch22, the youth offending charity that is part of a consortium with services company Serco that has won a bid to operate two new private prisons.

"I don't believe anyone between 15 and 18 years old should be locked up," she says. "But our society does lock up young people, including those who are most vulnerable, and if your objective as a charity is to help young people you have to ask if you can provide that help by running a locked regime.

"I would want to be open to that debate. If there were funding restrictions that made you believe you couldn't do anything therapeutic in that institution, and if security was the only consideration, I would say no.

"But if part of the purpose was to improve their health, education and opportunities, a charity such as ours should not get hooked up on the fact that the doors are locked.

"Our aim is to improve lives. Can anyone say for certain that a locked regime will not be able to do that? I wouldn't say so. You need to unpick each proposition and ask how it squares with your charitable objects."

Kevin Curley, chief executive of local umbrella body Navca, is running a campaign against the proposition that charities should run prisons. He says managing a prison involves punishment, which he argues is fundamentally at odds with the charity ethos.

His campaign, now featured on social networking site Facebook, began in May soon after the Secretary of State for Justice, Jack Straw, invited the wider involvement of the voluntary sector in prisons. Turning Point is also involved in the Serco consortium, and Nacro and others are also working with private prison providers, seeking contracts in which they would provide certain services.

Moseley says that in the deal with Serco - the first successful application - Catch22 would provide resettlement services. It would not be involved in decisions such as visiting arrangements or how long prisoners would be out of their cells.

"We will not be running the prison or dealing with security," she said. "But being part of the bid has given us a better opportunity to influence - not decide - what happens inside prisons; and that is an improvement on what happens anywhere in prisons at the moment."

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