Prisons in the press – 20 May

Reforms, reviews and embarrassing cardboard cut-outs

The "silly" cardboard cut-outs appeared at HMP Chelmsford. Image: Ambernectar 13

The “silly” cardboard cut-outs appeared at HMP Chelmsford. Image: Ambernectar 13

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

The government’s planned new laws have been set out by the Queen – including the biggest prison shake-up in England and Wales “since Victorian times”. The BBC has more.


Revealed this week

  1. Emergency services called out to prison incidents “every 20 minutes”. Emergency services were called out more than 26,600 times to incidents in UK prisons last year, a 52 per cent rise in callouts since 2011. The BBC has the story.
  2. Cambridgeshire to pilot “weekend only” prison system. From September, some prisoners will become weekend inmates and spend the rest of the week at home as they hold down jobs, as satellite tracking tags will monitor offenders movements. The Peterborough Telegraph has more.
  3. Prisoners to receive “tailored” education and training in reform plans. Every prisoner will be placed on a bespoke learning plan as part of a sweeping overhaul of the education system behind bars. Read more from the Daily Echo.
  4. Inside Wandsworth prison: Drugs and tension. BBC News has spent a week filming inside Wandsworth prison, one of the six prisons where governors will be given new powers over budgets and setting the daily regime. The BBC has the story.
  5. Drug abuse at Cumbrian prison putting pressure on ambulance service, amid warnings that a drug-related death is “almost inevitable”. A report from Haverigg Prison’s Independent Monitoring Board has said it is fighting an “unending war”. The News & Star has more.

Reaction to the Prisons Bill 

  1. Gove’s prison reform cannot undo the harm already inflicted by cuts. Cuts to prison budgets have gone hand in hand with an alarming surge in deaths, self-harm and assaults in custody – a result of the government’s budget. The Guardian has the story.
  2. Sport should be at the heart of David Cameron’s prison reform agenda. Now is the time to embrace the Texan notion of “justice reinvestment” and look at the well-documented role sport can play in promoting desistance from crime. The Telegraph has more.
  3. Prison reform plan “will not solve overcrowding and funding problems”. Prison reformers and governors describe prisons bill, which was the centrepiece of Queen’s speech, as “tragic distraction”. The Guardian has the story.
  4. Plans to give prison governors control welcomed. New powers to allow some prisons to set their own rules and budgets and decide how to rehabilitate inmates have been widely welcomed. The BBC has more.


News in context: “The biggest prison shake-up since Victorian times”

The BBC reports that satellite-tagging will be used and re-offending league tables will be published as part of prison reforms included in the Queen’s speech this week.

As part of the Prison and Courts Reform Bill for England and Wales the Queen announced:

  • New “reform” prisons to be opened, with emphasis on training, rehabilitation and education
  • Governors of new prisons to have freedom to agree service contracts and establish their own boards
  • More statistics on post-release offending and employment rates to be published
  • Courts and tribunals to be modernised, with greater use of technology to reduce delays


Prince William sent to ... Image: UK Parliament

To read the rest of the 21 Bill programme, click here. Image: UK Parliament

Public Finance reports the Queen said:

“Old and inefficient prisons will be closed and new ones built where prisoners can be put more effectively to work.”

Elaborating on the reforms, the Ministry of Justice said six institutions would be designated as “reform prisons”:

  • Wandsworth
  • Holme House
  • Kirklevington Grange
  • Coldingley
  • High Down
  • Ranby

These would be the first to gain financial and legal freedoms, including over how the prison budget is spent, opt-outs from national contracts and operational freedoms over education, the prison regime, family visits, and work and rehabilitation services.

Prime minister David Cameron said:

“For too long, we have left our prisons to fester. Not only does that reinforce the cycle of crime, increasing the bills of social failure that taxpayers must pick up. It writes off thousands of people.

“[The reforms would mean prisons would] no longer be warehouses for criminals; they will now be places where lives are changed.”

Public Finance and the BBC have more.


In other news 

Chelmsford Prison cardboard cut-outs “a bit silly”. Life-sized cardboard cut-outs of police designed to deter people from smuggling contraband into a prison have been branded “a bit silly”. Francis Crook, of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said the cut-outs were “insulting to staff”. The BBC has more.

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