Prisons in Parliament – 20th July

Drug treatment, youth offending and phone tapping, discussed in Parliament this week

The houses of parliament, Source: Rajan Manick, Flickr

Prisons in Parliament brings you up-to-date on the last week of politics and prisons. What’s been said? And by whom? Get it all here. 

1) Drug treatment in prison

Liz McInnes, Labour MP for Heywood and Middleton raised concerns over the impact of staff shortages on drug treatment in prisons last Thursday:

“Because of staff shortages prisoners simply cannot be escorted for their treatments. May we have an urgent debate on the difficulties experienced in implementing drug and alcohol treatment regimes in our prisons?

Former secretary of state for Justice, Chris Grayling, acknowledged the staff shortages saying:

“I know that my former team and the current team in the Ministry of Justice have been working hard to address those shortages and will continue to do so.”

Read the full statement here.


2) Prison visits for young offenders

An explanation for restrictions placed on young offender’s visits was called for by Jenny Chapman, Labour MP for Darlington:

“what reasons were recorded for children in each young offenders’ institution being placed on closed visits in each of the last three years; and how long in each such case that restriction was imposed?”

Andrew Selous, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice, acknowledged the importance of visits for rehabilitation purposes but explained visits are restricted on an individual basis:

“for reasons of securing good order and discipline, for the prevention of crime or in the interests of any individual.”

Read the full response here.


3) The phone tapping inquiry

The inquiry into prison phone tapping was published this week. The investigation was commissioned after allegations last November that communications between prisoners and 32 MPs had been monitored by prison staff (see Prisons in the Press 9th January). The inquiry found that although monitoring of communications did take place, there there was no evidence that it was deliberate or widespread. Andrew Selous apologised for the breach of privacy:

“Prisoners and Honourable Members should rightly expect these conversations to be confidential. While I am content that the recording of these communications was done in error rather than by intent, it is unacceptable that this issue was not identified sooner.”

Read the full response here.


4) Measures against new psychoactive substances in prison

Paul Flynn, Labour MP for Newport West asked what measures were being taken to reduce deaths in prisons in response to the July bulletin on new psychoactive substances.

Andrew Selous explained the work underway to counteract the impact of psychoactive substances in prison, measures including:

  • The Psychoactive Substances Bill to allow governors to press for the prosecution of those supplying new psychoactive substances in prisons.
  • Drug tests to detect these substances, and to train drug dogs to detect them
  • New methods of preventing drugs coming in, such as body scanners and a clause within the Serious Crime Bill to make it an offence to throw any item over a prison perimeter so that it lands in a prison.

The rest of the response here


5) How will we reduce youth reoffending? 

In the light of the decision not to go ahead with the building of a secure college, how the youth justice system can do more to reduce offending was debated this week in the House of Lords.

Lord Dolakia, Liberal Democrat peer, argued

“The purpose of the secure colleges, as against secure training centres, was to double the time available for education in these prison establishments, thus leading to better job opportunities for inmates on release”

And asked how, without the secure college, such objectives would be met.

Lord Faulks, Conservative peer, suggested education was the answer:

“Since March 2015 the number of hours of education available to young people has more than doubled”

Baroness Howarth of Breckland, Crossbench peer, pointed to the research for community solutions:

“Down the generations, material has been produced on how working in a one-to-one relationship with these youngsters can change their behaviour significantly. I ask the Minister to look at that again in the review, because that is what changes lives.”

Catch the full debate here.


6) Overcrowded prisons but Blantyre house stays closed

Despite recent reports of overcrowding in prisons (see Prison in the Press 12th June) Open prison, Blantyre house will not be reopened this summer. Andrew Selous explained:

“There are still around 500 available places in open prisons… there is no operational or fiscal reason to reopen the site this summer”.

The decision will be reviewed in the Autumn. Read the full answer here.


Keep an eye out for our new weekly post, Prisons in Parliament. 

One Comment on “Prisons in Parliament – 20th July”

  1. Thank you for your useful summaries. Your readers may also be interested in work that was undertaken by or related to the House of Commons Justice Select Committee during the last two weeks that Parliament was sitting:

    On 14 July, the Ministry of Justice published a response to the previous Committee’s report Prisons: planning and policies published at the end of the last Parliament

    On 17 July, the Committee held an evidence session with the Secretary of State at which he was asked various questions about prison safety and staffing (qs 29-35 and 40-48).

    On 21 July, the Committee launched an inquiry into young adult offenders which is broad-ranging and will include a consideration of the implications of the Harris Review and examine the evidence on how best to accommodate young adults in custody.

    On 23 July, the Committee published the Government’s response to a follow-up report on Women offenders produced by the previous Committee at the end of the last Parliament which includes consideration of female prisoners.

    If you are interested in receiving notifications of the Committee’s work please follow us on Twitter @commonsjustice and/or request to be added to our e-mail distribution list via


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