New Justice Secretary Outlines His Prison Vision

David Gauke, the new Justice Secretary, has given his first major speech on prison reform. He delivered this at the Royal Society of Arts (London) on 6th March 2018.

The former Work and Pensions Secretary told listeners that his purpose for prisons was threefold:

First, protection of the public – prison protects the public from the most dangerous and violent individuals.

Second, punishment – prison deprives offenders of their liberty and certain freedoms enjoyed by the rest of society and acts as a deterrent. It is not the only sanction available, but it is an important one.

And third, rehabilitation – prison provides offenders with the opportunity to reflect on, and take responsibility for, their crimes and prepare them for a law-abiding life when they are released.

It is only by prioritising rehabilitation that we can reduce reoffending and, in turn, the numbers of future victims of crime.

The Justice Secretary’s plans include tackling organised crime in prison, reducing the availability of drugs and increasing incentives for good behaviour.

Later in his speech, he also talked about prisons being places of “humanity, hope and aspiration”.

Importantly, he has committed to cross-government working to tackle issues in prison and reoffending.

Mr Gauke stated:

This approach means that we can target prisoners and ex-offenders with the support they need to find a job, a home, to get help with debt, or to get treatment for a drug addiction or… a mental health issue.

I met with my Cabinet colleagues yesterday to discuss this and I am encouraged that there is a consensus on the mission and energy to make real progress.

Other initiatives to be introduced include providing more mental health awareness training for prison staff and introducing an Education and Employment Strategy. The strategy will help prisoners to get the skills they need to find a job and avoid the activities that got them into prison.

Mr Gauke is the fifth Justice Secretary in the last three years. He was appointed two months ago in a cabinet reshuffle. He had previously been the Work and Pensions Secretary where he oversaw the controversial implementation of Universal Credit.