Summary of the discussion
We noted the practice of “Imprisonment for Public Protection” (IPP), in the news recently. IPP was created by the 2003 Criminal Justice Act, implemented since 2005, and used for crimes which do not merit a life sentence, but where the offender is considered to pose a danger to others. After 10 years have been served an application can be made for release on parole. But the Parole Board will only agree to that if they are satisfied that the public will no longer be in danger. The lack of resources available to the prison service, coupled with overcrowding, leads to a lack of effective rehabilitation work, with the risk of people imprisoned under IPP being “locked away and forgotten”, perhaps permanently excluded from society.
Our reading from the daily Morning Prayer was Isaiah chapter 44, verses 1 to 8, where the prophet speaks of people who have been excluded, but who are now fully welcomed into the community: “This one will say ‘I am the Lord’s’, another will be called by the name of Jacob, yet another will write on the hand ‘The Lord’s’, and adopt the name of Israel.” (v 5).
Exclusion from society can happen in many other cases. Asylum seekers “have no place in our country” and can be locked away in removal centres, the Home Office blaming their length of detention on the fact that they “insist” on exhausting every legal means to secure refugee status for themselves. Dysfunctional families and communities “have only themselves to blame”, with the financing of care work cut to a minimum, leaving social workers with excessive case-loads, early “burn-out”, and charities (including churches) expected to pick up the casualties.
One group that is often excluded from the rest of society, or rather who often exclude themselves, are the “super-rich”, whose numbers and wealth have increased greatly in recent decades. Some make generous donations from their prosperity for charitable causes (Bill Gates, for example), and the popularity of Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” since he wrote it in 1843 can persuade us that the solution to the economic problems of society is somehow to convince wealthy people to give more. But an article published on December 2nd by the US organisation “Patriotic Millionaires” suggests otherwise: We Should All Be Skeptical of Rich People’s Philanthropy – Patriotic Millionaires
Ben Phillips’ book “How to Fight Inequality” (published in 2020 by Polity Press), points out that “from the 1930s to the 1960s the US marginal tax rate on the super-rich ranged from 70 per cent to nearly 95 per cent, and those were pretty good years for growth (and for a growth that working people shared in). This high rate of tax on the super-rich, and relatively high investment in public services to benefit ordinary people, was maintained in the period under both Democrat and Republican Presidents…. History shows that extreme or ever-rising inequality is not inevitable” (page 40).
Perhaps those policies are needed again to counteract society’s growing tendency to exclude and marginalise many groups and individuals today, arguing that there are not enough resources to do more.