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.
Over the weekend HMP Birmingham, a privately run prison, experienced one of the worst riots it has witnessed in decades.
The G4S-run Birmingham – formerly known as Winson Green – witnessed a riot which resulted in 200 plus prisons having to be relocated after that took control of the prison. In a recent independent monitoring board report concerns were raised in October about the “increasingly difficult behaviour of individual prisoners coupled with staffing shortages”. This warning seemingly was ignored by the Government. Read more “Justice Statement: HMP Birmingham Riot”
Yesterday’s announcement by the Secretary of State for Justice, Liz Truss MP, into the reform of our prison system is too little too late. Reform has been needed for years, but this Government and the previous Coalition Government dodged the much needed reforms. Instead of choosing the right path of reform they decided to revert to type and cut prison officer numbers and investment into the prison estate.
Since the Tories have been in power they have presided over a cut of 7,000 prison officers. When Labour left office we had 49,230 prison officers maintaining safety in prisons and ensuring that it produced an environment where rehabilitation could progress. As of March 2016 there are only 43,540 prison officers. The Tory cuts have undermined prison safety and seen attacks on prison officer’s increase by 41%. Delve deeper into those figures and you will see a 31% increase in serious assaults on officers. That isn’t even over 5 years, that is just within one single year; a shocking figure. Read more “My Response to the Prison Reform Announcement made by the Justice Secretary”