A series of discussions on topics which are of interest to the people of the Woking area and the wider world
Click on these links to see details of the 2024 debates and reports Ex-prison officer’s view on locking up offenders

A PRISON officer turned author is the opening speaker at our debate on Saturday 25 May, which will question whether locking up offenders is the most effective way of reducing crime.

Alex South spent almost 10 years working as a prison officer says the UK is failing both prisoners and staff. But since we know the problems it should be possible to fix them, she says.

Also speaking is former police officer Jonathan Ranger, a Quaker who is a member of The Prison Reform Trust and The Howard League.

Alex wrote Behind These Doors, in which she tried to humanise the people behind the headlines by writing honestly about her experiences as a prison officer.

“Does prison work? In theory, yes,” she says. “If someone is locked up, they can’t commit crime. Except, they can. And they do.”

Soaring rates of violence, self-harm, suicide, rioting and even murder in jails gave her an insight into life in our prisons. Recidivism rates show that almost half of prisoners re-offend within a year of release.

Alex worked in some of the country’s most notorious men’s prisons, including Whitemoor, Belmarsh and Wormwood Scrubs. She trained as a riot commander and hostage negotiator and was often deployed in that role to live incidents. After Alex

Jonathan was a Metropolitan Police officer for many years, before changing careers when the traditional ideas of policing were “collapsing into the mess we have nowadays”.

He is now a publishing editor, psychologist, theologian, philosopher and writer who is keen to find solutions to the problem of how else to deal with offenders of various sorts.

The debate – titled Prison: are there more effective ways of reducing crime? – is at Woking United Reformed Church in White Rose Lane. The doors open at 10.30am for refreshments and the debate is from 11am to 12.30pm.

There will be ample opportunity for everyone to share their views and concerns about this important topic.

Entry is free, with donations to help with running costs requested at the end.

The 2024 Woking Debates season concludes at the church on Saturday 29 June with an event titled Why do we allow refugees into our country?



Our May debate will ask if there are more effective ways than prison of tackling crime.
Debates have a new venue Don’t forget that the venue for Woking Debates has moved to Woking United Reformed Church in White Rose Lane, Woking GU22 7HA. The railway station is not far away. The quickest route to walk from the town centre is via the subway under the station from Broadway. There is no parking at the church, although there might be some disabled spaces available. The nearest public car park is in Heathside Crescent, a short walk away.