A CRIMINAL ACT?
Is this government guilty of a criminal act? If the Arts Council’s cuts last week were not barbaric in their own right, one sector has been especially heavily hit.
With total budgets cuts to Writers in Prison Network and two other award-winning companies from 2012, the arts in criminal justice sector has lost three of its six ACE-funded organisations: that’s 50%. ACE West Midlands alone axed two out of three. How’s that for ACE’s claim of balance?
ACE will continue to work with us for the next year and to support our application to other (smaller) pots of funding but this is no way replaces what they have taken away.
Why should we care? Surely offenders, by the very nature of their anti-social behaviour, do not deserve the arts? Pause for thought. There are 85,000 people in prison today, and all but a handful are coming out on a street near you soon. Do you want them better or worse?
All these arts companies are dedicated to turning people’s lives round in prison so that they don’t reoffend. ACE has replaced these companies with… NOTHING. How does that contribute to the ConDems policy of the rehabilitation revolution?
We must, of course, seriously question the cost to the taxpayer. A writer’s residency in prison costs £20,000 per year. The average cost of keeping someone in prison for a year is £47,000. If one of my writers turns round just one offender that’s £47,000 a year saved for every year of their not reoffending, And we currently have 16 writers in residence. How does withdrawing funding to Writers in Prison match up to the LibDems policy of payment by results?
The Arts Council annual grant request, into which we factored 10% year-on-year self-imposed cuts, came to about the same cost as three prisoners a year. Or just over what two MPs cost annually. One RBS banker’s annual pay would fund us for nearly 7 years.
The barbarians are at the gates. The Big Society just got much smaller, Mr Cameron. But don’t forget, we’re all in this together… just some of us are more in it than others.