Categorized | Criminal Justice, Law Updates

Prison reform

Prison reform

Prison reform was a key element of the Prisons and Courts Bill, abandoned in the run up to the general election. And it was not reinstated in the threadbare Queen’s Speech.

In his first public statement since taking up the post of justice secretary, David Lidington has sought to reassure that this apparent dropping of prison reform is not sinister. The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) published an open letter from him claiming that ‘essential’ changes are already under way to make prisons places of ‘safety and reform’.

“The work to make our prisons true places of reform and rehabilitation is already under way – and it will continue unabated,” Lidington writes. He details the work within local communities and with other services such as with Probation, Jobcentres, housing, health and drug services, local businesses and charities to provide innovative schemes and initiatives to prepare prisoners for a life after release and promises: “Only by building on this work to reform offenders and support ex-offenders will we stop the vicious and costly cycle of reoffending.

“This is my priority and as the new Secretary of State, I am committed to building on the essential reforms that are already under way to make prisons places of safety and reform.”

Stressing the importance of staffing he said: “My predecessor has already secured a £100 million a year investment for an extra 2,500 prison officers. The most recent figures show the number of prison officers in post has increased by 515 compared with the previous quarter and we are on track to deliver all 2,500 prison officers by December 2018.”

Lidington claimed that we are the first jurisdiction in the world to introduce testing for psychoactive substances across the estate. And more than 300 dogs have been trained to detect these substances.

On drones he said that the department is working with the police to catch and convict criminals using drones to smuggle contraband into prisons, and have also established a new team of prison and police officers to directly tackle the threat posed by drones. On mobile phones: “We are working with mobile network operators to tackle illicit use of phones. We have now fitted out every single prison across the estate with hand-held mobile phone detectors and detection poles to step up the detection of illegal phones on the landings. More than 150 mobile phones have been cut off since the introduction of new powers through the Serious Crime Act.”

He confirmed that “We are continuing to transform our prison estate to close old and dilapidated prisons and create up to 10,000 new places through a £1.3 billion investment.”

As reported in the ‘Gazette’, Peter Clarke, HM chief inspector of prisons, said the bill had enjoyed broad parliamentary support and had made real progress. Its absence from the Queen’s speech was a ’missed opportunity’, Clarke said, adding: “We will continue to report the harsh reality of what we find in our prisons – all too many of which are dangerous for prisoners and staff alike.”

And Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said: “The decision puts even more pressure on the new justice secretary to find ways to stop our chronic overuse of prison so that this hardest pressed of public services can start to repair the damage his predecessors have inflicted upon it.”

The full text of the justice secretary’s letter can be found at:
https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/prison-reform-open-letter-from-the-justice-secretary

This post was written by:

- who has written 462 posts on Upper Case – The Anya Legal Journal.

Mike Gribbin is a retired Civil Servant with wide experience, including the drafting and implementation of Parliamentary legislation and regulations. He is the editor of “Criminal Offences Handbook”, a uniquely comprehensive guide to more than one thousand ways to fall foul of UK criminal law. He is Editor of the Upper Case Legal Journal and has been writing blog posts for the past eight years.

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