Liz Truss, the new Secretary of State for Justice, has today announced her proposals for prison reform in a Government White Paper.
She has recognised the troubled state of UK prisons which has seen the number of deaths in prison doubling over the last three years and incidents of sexual abuse more than doubling in the same time period. Prison staffing levels are also 30% lower than they were six years ago.*
Truss has committed to £1.3bn of investment in a “modern” prison estate to be developed over the next five years. She has also committed to investing in more than 2000 prison staff, giving greater autonomy to prison governors and creating new drug tests to try and battle the epidemic of drugs in prison.
“We owe it to our hard-working prison staff to reverse these trends. We owe it to prisoners and their families. And we owe it to our communities and victims of crime,” Truss said, whilst recognising that the cost of reoffending was estimated to be about £15bn a year.
Truss’ announcement follows on from a meeting with the Prison Officers Association who have been deeply concerned for the safety of their staff in prison and who have considered industrial action.
Key points from the White Paper include:
- Creating 10,000 new adult places in the prison estate as well as closing old jails
- For prison officers to act as “mentors” rather than just security guards or minders
- New prison staff to include high-achieving graduates and former armed forces personnel
- For every prisoner to have a dedicated prison officer assigned to them
- Increased governor autonomy, with discretion on releasing inmates on temporary licences
- Planning permission applications to be made for new prisons
- Five new community prisons to house women ahead of release
- Increased drug testing – including testing for drug use on entry and exit from prison
- No-fly zones over prisons to stop drugs being dropped off
- A prisoner league table, with annual performance measures
To download the full White Paper, click here.
*Prison: the facts – Bromley Briefings Summer 2016