JUSTICE MINISTER CHRIS GRAYLING’S “PRISON CRISIS” POLICIES: PART 1 – 2014Posted: January 21, 2015
From book bans to super-prisons to suicides, the man in charge of prisons in England & Wales came in for a lot of criticism last year
Chris Grayling, the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, has figured out what many politicians the world over know: talking tough on crime and cracking down on criminals wins votes (whether it works or not).
Mr Grayling announced many controversial policies last year and was under fire from all sides to tackle Britain’s “prisons crisis”. Here is a rundown of his policy highlights and lowlights from the past 12 months:
- Mr Grayling announced plans to build Britain’s biggest prison alongside four mini-prisons in a departure from government policy, which previously suggested that prisons are expensive and ineffective at tackling crime.
- Unveiled controversial plans for a children’s “super-prison” housing 300 boys – some as young as 12 – a handful of girls and a unit for babies. He said the “secure college” will be run by a private company when it opens in 2017.
- Scrapped plans for 100-year prison terms.
- Announced new “Victim’s Code” offering more support and placing more value on victim personal statements.
In February 2014, Mr Grayling set up a juvenile deaths in custody inquiry and put the closure of young offender institutions on ice.
In May 2014, the Justice Minister ordered a clampdown on day releases from prisons after “murderer on the loose” headlines following the “Skull Cracker’s” escape.
- Mr Grayling said the public wanted “more criminals behind bars” as the prison population rose and overcrowded jails were ordered to take more inmates.
- Probation work was split between a new national probation service and 21 community rehabilitation companies. The plans included the privatisation of 70 per cent of the service with the supervision of more than 200,000 low- and medium-risk offenders taken over by the private and voluntary sectors.
- The Chief Inspector of Prison ssaid Ministry of Justice policies were “responsible for prison suicides” and criticised Mr Grayling for failures on staffing and overcrowding.
- Mr Grayling denied there was a prisons crisis, but admitted they are short of staff.
- Issued orders to turn out lights and televisions in the cells of young offenders at 10.30pm sharp to enforce earlier bedtimes.
- Mr Grayling came under fire over a claim that the Ministry of Justice “hid abuse and rape in jails”. An investigation was allegedly hampered as researchers were barred from interviewing prisoners.
- Started work on developing a network of specialist mental health centres within prisons in England and Wales.
- Mr Grayling admitted that his prison service reform was driven by “financial reasons”.
- The controversial blanket ban on books being sent to prisoners was declared unlawful in the High Court after it was challenged by an inmate with a doctorate in English literature.
- Mr Grayling said that a huge spike in sex offence cases since former DJ Jimmy Savile’s crimes were exposed has put added pressure on prison service.
- Announced that all new prisoners will be asked whether they have served in the armed forces in an effort to improve the treatment of veterans.
Another article on Mr Grayling’s record in previous years will follow soon. For now, here is a picture of the Lord Chancellor in black robe with gold displaying his common touch.