The UK Government responded to a recent Justice Committee report, Prison 2020, that they would produce a new prison strategy. However, when I pressed the Prison’s Minister on when this strategy would be published she couldn’t tell us even a rough date. I worry that we are seeing more can kicking on prison reform and safety.
I also pointed out that the £156m spending pledge by the government on prison refurbishment is welcome, but it falls far short of the £900m backlog of maintenance issues. Unsafe prisons increase volatility of prisoners and increase reoffending rates. We urgently need investment into our justice system.
On Wednesday, Labour held an Opposition Day Debate on prison safety and reform. As many of you will know, I am one of the two rapporteurs for prisons in the Justice Select Committee and a former Prisons Minister in the last Labour Government.
At the end of 2016 there didn’t seem to be a week go by without a prison riot erupting in various parts of the country. There were prison riots in HMP Swaleside, Birmingham, Lewes, Bedford, Hull and Moorlands. This came about due to the inadequacy of support from the Government to our prison officers and the system as a whole. Read more “Opposition Day Debate: Prison Safety and Reform”
On Tuesday, I asked the Secretary of State for Justice, Liz Truss MP, what her department was doing to decrease the number of sick days taken by prison officers.
The number of sicks days have risen to 200,000 days in the past 12 months. This is due in part to the increase attacks on prison officers committed by prisoners. Read more “Justice Questions: Prison Safety”
On Tuesday, I asked the Secretary of State for Justice, Elizabeth Truss MP, about the growing pressures within our prisons.
The Government has continually cut the number of Prison Officers, whilst the number of people inside prisons continues to increase. This has resulted in the situation where we have experienced staff leaving prisons and experienced prisoners now in control of prisons.
We can see the effect this is having on prison safety. The number of attacks on Prison Officers has increased significantly. The number of self-inflicted harm within the prison population has also skyrocketed. This is deeply concerning as if we cannot make our prisons safe places reoffending rates will increase.
The Secretary of State dodged my question. She merely stated that she agreed with me that we must be doing all we can to retain Prison Officers. She also noted that the Government may be making an announcement in the near future regarding recruitment in prisons.
I will continue to monitor this as part of my role on the House of Commons Justice Select Committee.