Prisons in the press – 4 March

Gove to tackle prison reform without cutting inmate populations and legal highs on the rise

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Legal highs are increasing the violence in prison, but a former prisoner governor says the drugs aren’t to blame. Image: Wikimedia Commons


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

Justice Secretary Michael Gove says he can reform prisons without cutting inmate populations. In an interview with The Guardian he added that political tensions over his position on the EU will not derail his plans for reform. Read the story here.


Revealed this week

  1. More than 1,000 prison officers attacked by inmates in two months. These include 95 of the highest category ‘serious’ assaults on staff, such as being slashed with homemade weapons. The Mirror has more.
  2. Prisons inspector calls for time limit on immigration detention. Peter Clarke says system to avoid unreasonable detention does not always work, after a man is held for a total of five years. The Guardian has the story. Or read more about it from Prison Watch UK, here.
  3. Protestors gather at Scottish prison to highlight “humiliating” conditions for female inmates. Members of RISE, a pro-independence left wing alliance, held the demonstration at HMP Cornton Vale. The Daily Record has more.
  4. Extra prison patrols to tackle contraband at Stoke Heath prison. Police have stepped up patrols after reports of drugs and mobile phones being thrown into the grounds of the Shropshire prison. The Shropshire Star has the story.
  5. Brixton prison librarian tried to buy a gun on the ‘Dark Web’. Dwain Osborne was charged with attempting to purchase a handgun and 100 rounds of ammunition online, as well as possessing cocaine with intent to supply. The Evening Standard has more.


Legal highs 

  1. Legal highs are increasing violence in prison. ITV reports that tactical response teams were called to deal with violent or dangerous incidents in jail nearly every day last year. Read the story here.
  2. Former prison governor says don’t blame legal highs for prisoners’ problems. Blame prisons. The Guardian reports that John Podmore says “the only way to stop drugs coming into jails is for inmates not to want them. Meaningful work, education and training – that would be real reform.” The Guardian has more.
  3. Legal highs are a “huge and disruptive” problem in Bristol prison, says a spokesman for the jail’s Independent Monitoring Board. This comes just weeks after legal highs were found to be “easily available” at Leicester prison. The BBC has the story.


News in context: Prison reform without reducing populations 

The Guardian reports that justice secretary Gove said there was no need to “manage down the prison population” or to introduce an “artificial target” to reduce the number of prisoners, revealing that the Treasury had promised him sufficient funding to “keep prison numbers stable” despite wider pressures on the public finances.

The revelation sits uneasily with Gove’s new image as a champion of penal reform and will disappoint campaigners, who say a radical reduction in prisoner numbers – which have risen from 45,000 in 1990 to almost 86,000 today – must be central to reform.

... Image: Policy Exchange

Justice Secretary Gove says reforms are possible while keeping prison numbers stable. Image: Policy Exchange


Until now, the justice secretary has avoided the politically sensitive question of the rising prison population in the handful of speeches he has made on reform.

But in an interview with The Guardian Gove rejected:

“the view that says it is only possible to rehabilitate if you dramatically reduce the prison population. If you were to be seen to be artificially attempting to manage the population down, I think it would have a harmful effect on the criminal justice system overall.”

Read the full article here. And to find out why the UK locks up more people than any other western European country, click here.


In other news 

Mock prison cells built at Coventry university to show criminology students what life is like behind bars. The cells are exact replicas of the clink, with  details even down to the metal bunks and a toilet with no privacy. Watch a video that takes you inside the cells here.

..nside the world’s toughest prison .

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