Prisons in Parliament

“In 1970 we faced a prisons crisis; today we face a prisons scandal”

pentonville

It’s time to rethink our prisons. Image: Pentonville Prison, Getty images

Prisons in Parliament keeping you up-to-date on the last week of politics and prisons. What has been said and by whom? Find out here…

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Prison reform

It’s time to take proposals for prison reform seriously, it was agreed in the House of Lords last week. Lord Fowler brought the motion:

Much of our prison system is a disgrace to a civilised country. This all spells out not years but decades of neglect and, frankly, public uninterest. If this were any other part of the public service, there would have been emergency debates in Parliament and demonstrations all the way down Whitehall.”

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Lord Fowler set out five proposals:

  1. Refocus on rehabilitation
  2. End the overcrowding of our prisons
  3. Reduce the number of people we send to prison.
  4. Re-examine sentencing and the power of the courts.
  5. More autonomy for prison staff

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He concluded the debate:

“Our policy over the last 50 years has been a notable failure—not good for the prisoners and certainly not good for the public, who finance this system. We badly need not only new ideas but new ideas followed by action, and that action and that need is urgent. In 1970, we faced a prisons crisis; today, we face a prisons scandal.”

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Education in prison

What steps they are taking to help improve education standards in United Kingdom prisons? Lord Hanningfield asked:

“Education is right at the bottom of the profile in prisons now…  We need to think about how we can do more in both education and training in prison.”

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In context:

  • 60 per cent of all prisoners in 2009 were discovered to have a reading age below that of a normal five year-old
  • 30 per cent of the prison population are dyslexic. That’s three times the national average
  • 42 per cent of prisoners were excluded from school permanently
  • December’s Ofsted report showed a rating of “inadequate” or “requires improvement” for 72 per cent of prisons
  • Only nine per cent of adult prisoners assessed upon arrival were at GCSE standard A* to C in maths

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Baroness Murphy suggested the largest barriers to improving education in prison is lack of time spent out of cell and incentives to learn.

 

Lord Ramsbotham said that during his time as Chief Inspector of Prisons:

“I quickly became aware that education was the most important ingredient of successful rehabilitation, and therefore, by implication, reduction in reoffending.”

He suggested more autonomy to prison governors and long-term educational contracts.

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Mental health provision in prison

How much was spent on training prison officers to help prisoners with mental health issues in each of the last three years? Asked David Hanson.

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Andrew Selous said:

“All prison officers receive training on mental health issues as part of their initial training course. The majority of mental health training is delivered locally and costs attributed to such training are not held centrally”

Here are the figures:

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