Set aside from the multitude of comedians and theatrical performances that dominate the Fringe, the Just Festival Conversations offer professional insight and debate on controversial and complex topics that prove to be intriguing.
Prisons: Fit for Purpose?, at the Quaker Meeting House on 18 August provides a one-off opportunity to investigate this question, posed by the new Chief Inspector of Prisons, Peter Clarke, earlier this year. It will explore a variety of issues, including the evolution of prisons and the incarceration of young offenders.
This is all the more topical when viewed in the context of recent global events, such as the approaching anniversary of Sandra Bland’s death while imprisoned for a traffic misdemeanour and the recurring issue of a prisoner’s right to vote supported by the democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton. The conversation focuses not only on the global issues but more specifically on the Scottish penal system, placed against the backdrop of Peter Clarke’s statements that violence in British prisons is unacceptably high and that prisons are failing entirely.
Free from the limitations of a single speaker, this event hosts a number of panellists from differing backgrounds and stances including a representative from the Church of Scotland, and a University of Edinburgh professor.
Far from simply being a detached and wholly intellectual discussion, the setting in a mock up prison cell promises to focus the issues and ensure the audience and speakers never forget the reality of what they are discussing. In a topic that is so often reduced to dehumanising statistics concerning bodies and money this event will open a constructive discussion and actively engage in questions that are often avoided by mainstream media.