Prisons in the Press – 30 October

Prison parties, ageing inmates and Oscar Wilde…   

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The jail that housed Oscar Wilde could soon be dedicated to his memory. Image: DPMS

Prisons in the press brings you the best articles from the past week to keep you up-to-date on prison news.

Hot off the press

Almost half of prison governors will leave their jobs if conditions in UK jails remain the same. A survey on behalf of the Prison Governors Association (PGA) has revealed that smaller budgets, fewer staff and more volatile offenders have put increasing strain on prison governors across the UK. Justice Secretary Michael Gove has suggested that more autonomy may be the solution. The BBC has the full story.

In context

Of those who responded to the survey (40% of the PGA):

  • 57% work on average between 38 and 48 hours a week
  • 41% work more than 48 hours a week
  • 82% have seen their workload increase over the past year
  • 61% have suffered stress-related illness

Justice Secretary Michael Gove says:

“One of the biggest brakes on progress in our prisons is the lack of operational autonomy and genuine independence enjoyed by governors. Giving governors more freedom would enable us to establish and capture good practice in a variety of areas. and spread it more easily.”

The BBC reports that Gove says more autonomy, particularly over education, could mean prison governors could be more imaginative and demanding in what they expected from both prisoners and teachers.

The plans, however, are far from fully formed and if the Justice Secretary is to go ahead, especially in regards to prison education, he will have to untangle an already complicated web of relations.

Michael Gove Conservative Party conference 2015

“We shouldn’t ignore the failures in our criminal justice system. And the biggest failure of all is the failure in our prisons,” Gove told the Conservative party conference. Photo: Conservatives.

To read more about Michael Gove’s plans for UK prisons and to read what the Guardian’s Eric Allison thinks, click here.


Revealed this week 

  1. Spending watchdog is to launch an investigation into a Government scheme that sold prison expertise overseas. Though Justice Secretary Michael Gove closed down Just Solutions International, a controversial justice deal with Saudi Arabia remained on the table until earlier this month. The Daily Mail has the full story.
  2. Bristol prison branded unsafe. A report by the Independent Monitoring Board says HMP Bristol has an atmosphere of being “unsafe if not dangerous” and because of its high “churn factor requires discretionary funding” and more staff.  ITV has the full story.
  3. Women’s prisons “should be more therapeutic”. The Scottish government is currently consulting on what new measures could be introduced to reduce reoffending rates. The Times reports that proposals include allowing women prisoners to be let out of jail to do the school run and “equine therapy”. Read more here.


In comment 

  1. Prisoners are like CEOs, they’re skilled at hiding low self-esteem, says life coach. Clare McGregor, mentor to the residents of Styal women’s prison in Cheshire, realised that many people near rock bottom lack belief in their power to change anything at all, and that it’s the people who are never normally offered coaching who would benefit the most from it. Read more here.
  2. The UK is suffering from old crimes and even older inmates. The fastest-growing group in jail is men over 60, but caring for them is a strain on a cash strapped penal system. Using Rye Hill in Rugby as an example, Helen Warrell for the FT explores the consequences of an aging population on a prison already struggling with budget cuts. The FT has the full story.


In other news 

  1. Lancaster prison will be brought screaming back to life this weekend with parties planned in A Wing for the next two nights. Despite previous plans to turn the defunct HMP Lancaster into a tourist attraction in 2012,  the prison  – which closed in 2011 – has played host to ravers 10 times in the past year, with events including last years spooky “dead men dancing”. Find out what it’s like to party in a prison here.
  2. Reading votes to turn Grade II listed prison into an Oscar Wilde museum. Following a survey by Get Reading the two most likely options for former HMP Reading – to become a hotel or to be retained as a prison – were voted for least. Get Reading has more.




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