Prisons in the press – 18 March

Reform, radicalisation and rotor blades

Michael Gove Conservative Party conference 2015

Gove at this year’s Conservative party conference. Photo: The Conservative Party


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 is to mimic the “radical” reforms he made to schools when Education Secretary by setting up special “reform prisons”. He told the Justice Select Committee that prison managers would be given more control and groups of prisons could be run by a single governor. The reforms will be outlined in a white paper this spring.


Revealed this week

  1. Milton Keynes prison suicide rate is branded an ‘unacceptable toll’. Nine suicides have occurred at HMP Woodhill since 2012 and a report found that levels of violence, including assaults on staff, were “much higher” than compared to most prisons. The BBC has the story.
  2. Chancellor reveals plans for new prison in Manchester. In his latest Budget speech George Osborne pledged greater powers for the region including, greater influence over education provision in prisons, and joint work with Government to improve services for youth offenders. ITV has the full story.
  3. Northern Ireland prison service to investigate claims that prisoners celebrated prison officer’s death. Officer Adrian Ismay was making a good recovery after being injured in a bomb attack but suffered a suspected heart attack 11 days after the explosion. The BBC has more.
  4. Plaid Cymru MP calls for investment in ‘violent and overcrowded’ Leicester prison. Liz Saville Roberts submitted an early day motion following a damning HM Inspectorate of Probation report on the jail published last month. The Leicester Mercury has the story.


Radicalisation in prison

  1. Inmates “fear being radicalised in Belmarsh prison by Muslims”. A senior barrister says prison officers have lost control of one of Britain’s most secure facilities, amid concerns radical prisoners are trying to bully others into converting to Islam. The Telegraph has more.
  2. “There are ways to stop extremist spreading their hatred in prison”. That’s the advice from writer Ed Husain who says “Locking up terrorists is not a solution to the long-term danger they pose”. The Evening Standard has the full story.
  3. Are French prisons finishing schools for terrorism? As France launches a scheme to turn young Muslim prisoners back from radicalisation, The Guardian asks if prisons can solve a problem society has utterly failed to repair? Read more here.


News in context: Gove’s plans for prison reform

Mr Gove is building a reputation for radical approaches to fixing problems. So far as Justice Secretary, he has reversed the book ban, withdrawn from a prisons contract with Saudi Arabia, scrapped unpopular court charges and announced that he would sell old Victorian jails and build newer ones.

The specific proposals will be published in a prisons reform bill this spring, so many of the details are vague for now.


New Justice Secretary Michael Gove. Source: Wikipedia

New Justice Secretary Michael Gove. Source: Wikipedia

But the general idea is to devolve power to prison governors and managers by giving them more say over budgets and staff. A single governor would be able to run several prisons the same way head teachers can now control a string of academy schools.

Mr Gove also said that prisoners would be put to work and given training to “acquire meaningful qualifications and the habits of work and self-respect”. He plans to offer incentives to graduates to teach in prisons similar to the Teach First-style programme for schools.


In other news 

Dramatic video footage of a Canadian prison break by helicopter has emerged during the trial of one of the escapees.  The unarmed guards could only watch and record as the helicopter landed on the roof of a prison in Quebec in March 2013.


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