Detention doesn’t work.

“I am a torch bearer of the message that detention must end. I have a question for you. Are you torch bearers too?” There was an enthusiastic response of yes at Detention Action’s event last night.

William’s message has been taken to heart by Detention Action over the last year, and we have spent much of our time knocking on the doors of politicians, journalists, students and other NGOS who don’t traditionally work on detention, to try and garner their support for the campaign to challenge the use of detention in the UK.

We have spent a significant amount of time this year working on our strategy to achieve the change that we want to see in terms of not just changing detention, but also challenging its growth and ultimately its very existence.

We are seeking to challenge detention with three key arguments:

Detention doesn’t work for people
People who are in detention tell us it is like ‘mental torture’. We know that not knowing when you will be released from a high security centres, having limited access to justice, crushes the spirit, worsens mental and physical health problems, and removes any sense of dignity and individual freedom. The UK decided not to detain terrorist suspects for 42 days.  Yet hundreds of migrants and asylum-seekers have been detained for periods of up to five years.  At the end of last year, 142 people had been detained for over a year. For people who care about civil liberties, detention is not the answer, whether for 42 days or for 4 years.

Detention doesn’t work for the taxpayer
Detention is expensive.  It costs the taxpayer £47,000 per year to detain one person. Recent research has found that £75 million per year is wasted in this way. Most people who are detained for over a year are released and so their detention has served no purpose – other than to destroy their lives and the lives of their families. In other countries, people’s cases are resolved in the community. This is fairer but it is also cheaper.

Detention doesn’t work for the government
The government says that people must be detained to protect the public and to make deportation easier. But the argument is flawed because people are released without any support, minimal finances and sometimes completely destitute. Other countries have fairer, cheaper and more effective alternatives to resolve people’s cases in the community, because they recognise that detention doesn’t work.

And we will continue to work hard to ensure that the message of detention doesn’t work for anyone gets through to everyone.