Prisons in the press – 12 February

The biggest prison shake-up for a century and a painful rat infestation

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A prisoner is set to sue after claiming to have been bitten by a rat in his cell. Image: Vic DeLeon

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

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Hot off the press

Prisons overhaul announced by David Cameron. Six “reform prisons” are to be created in England and Wales as part of a pilot to tackle high levels of violence and re-offending, with governors being awarded more autonomy over their operation and budgets. The prime minister also announced plans for “secure schools” for young offenders and weekend only prison sentences. The BBC has the story.

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Revealed this week

  1. Prison ombudsman investigates the death of a new mother taken off suicide watch. Partner of Michelle Barnes says she killed herself after guards said her baby would be taken into care and she became agitated. The Guardian has the story.
  2. Police braced for extra costs linked to Wrexham, Britain’s biggest prison opening in Wales. North Wales police revealed the force expects to face staffing costs of £147,000 a year as a result of the new £212m prison. WalesOnline has more.
  3. Northern Ireland prison staffed paid over £2.7m in compensation over the last three years. Claims include sums paid for psychiatric impacts, violence and injury, slips, trips and smoke inhalation. UTV has the story.
  4. Legal highs at Cardiff prison are causing ‘horrific’ injuries. The prison’s Independent Monitoring Board says these drugs are one of the biggest issues facing staff. The BBC has more.
  5. Closure of Scotland’s only all-female prison to begin this summer. The closure is part of a new scheme aimed at changing the way the Scottish Prison Service deals with women in custody. STV News has the story.

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In comment this week 

  1. Babies behind bars: why Cameron’s support of prison reforms falls short. Everyday Sexism’s Laura Bates says “the prime minister is right to be concerned about detaining pregnant women and mothers with young babies. But with fewer women than men able to find a job on release, and more committing self-harm, do the alternatives go far enough?” Read more here.  
  2. Short is not sweet when it comes to prison sentences. The Scotsman reports that neither society nor offenders gain from jail terms that offer no time for rehabilitation or even for meaningful punishment. Read the full story here.
  3. Our prisons are broken – tear down the bars. The Telegraph’s Danny Kruger says the prime minister’s reforms need to be even bolder. Taking HMP Wormwood Scrubs as an example Kruger explains “you can tell the state of a prison by it’s rubbish [and at Wormwood Scrubs] the rubbish lies ankle deep under the cell windows.” The Telegraph has more.

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News is context: Cameron’s call for prison reform 

In his speech David Cameron announced the “biggest shake-up of prisons since the Victorian era”, he said prisoners should be seen as “potential assets to be harnessed” and said that the “failure of our system today is scandalous”.

Among his reforms Cameron announced new powers to speed up the deportation of foreign inmates and plans for all jails to be assessed through league tables.

He commented that the “current levels of prison violence, drug-taking and self-harm should shame us all”, with a typical week seeing 600 incidents of self-harm, at least one suicide and 350 assaults including 90 on staff.

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David Cameron says the “failure of our system today is scandalous”. Image: Number 10

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As well as the creation of reform prisons, The Independent reports that the prime minister is calling for “secure schools” for young offenders instead of prison, in an effort to place more emphasis on education and driving down re-offending rates.

To find out what impact his reforms may have on the prison system, click here.

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In other news 

A prisoner is set to sue prison chiefs over claims he was bitten by a rat in his cell. The lag, calling himself Chire Henderson, says he was bitten by a rat at the 1,100-capacity HMP Bullingdon in OxfordshireThe Mirror has the story.

nside the world’s toughest prison .

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