Some of the most chronic reoffenders are those with drug and alcohol addictions. When I was Minister for Justice in the last Labour Government I ensured that we tackled this issue head on and ensured that drug and alcohol rehabilitation orders. We have seen a noticeable drop in the number of orders being placed on people.
The reason why this matters is because revolving door prison sentences are not effective for people with these problems. Short-term prison sentences mean that people do not gain access to the treatment they need and more often than not prison becomes a college of crime. Those sentenced for less serious offences learn more dangerous skills off hardened criminals and then utilise them on the streets when released.
Prison only works if we have the policies in place to make them work. We need to see an increase in drug and alcohol treatment orders to deliver safer communities.
Sentences of Imprisonment for Public Protection (IPPs) were introduced by the last Labour Government from 2005. They were designed to ensure that dangerous violent and sexual offenders stayed in custody for as long as they presented a risk to society. Under the system, a person who had committed a specified violent or sexual offence would be given an IPP if the offence was not so serious as to merit a life sentence. Once they had served their “tariff” they would have to satisfy the Parole Board that they no longer posed a risk before they could be released.
IPPs were abolished in 2012, but not for existing prisoners.
There were 2,403 unreleased IPP prisoners in custody in England and Wales on 31 March 2019, which is the latest snapshot of the prison population at the time of writing. Ninety-eight per cent or 2,360 of these prisoners were male. There were only 43 unreleased female IPP prisoners.
I asked the Minister a series of questions on how he would ensure that any flaws remaining in the system were rectified and balanced with the need to keep dangerous offenders off our streets. We must always put the victim at the heart of our judicial system.
The announcement by the Secretary of State for Justice to undertake an evidence-based review of the benefit of custodial sentences of less than 6 months is to be welcomed.
The evidence points to fact that sending people to prison for a short-term custodial sentence acts as a college of crime. People who enter prison for minor offences may develop substance abuse problems, exacerbate mental health issues and connect them with hardened criminals.
I want to see a sensible sentencing policy put in place. One that takes into account the individual, their record on repeat offending and the risks they pose to communities. Prison will only work if it is used against people correctly. It fails when it trains a new generation of criminals who put our safety at risk.
Another prison riot took place this week and on Thursday Labour called the Government to the Commons to answer our serious concerns.
As a former Prisons Minister I have deep concerns about the way in which our prisons system has been run in the last seven years. Prison officer numbers are at a record low, prisons are in a terrible state of repair and overcrowding has become the norm. Not only that but the number of deaths in prisons has reached an all time high of 345 in 2016. Of the 3 homicides in 2016, 2 occurred in Long Lartin.
I asked the Minister what action the Government is taking to bring an end to this staggeringly high number of murders in one prison alone.