Prisons in ParliamentPosted: May 23, 2016
The Queen’s speech: reform proposals unlocked
Prison reform was at the heart of the Queen’s speech last week. Prisons in Parliament brings you up-to-date with all the key debates and the highlights you missed.
The Queen’s speech
My Government will legislate to reform prisons and courts to give individuals a second chance.
Prison Governors will be given unprecedented freedom and they will be able to ensure prisoners receive better education. Old and inefficient prisons will be closed and new institutions built where prisoners can be put more effectively to work.
Action will also be taken to ensure better mental health provision for individuals in the criminal justice system.
David Cameron described it as “the biggest reform of our prisons system for a century”.
Overcrowding must be addressed first
Edward Garnier MP welcomed the Government’s proposed measures but argued overcrowding must first be tackled.
“Nothing of lasting value seriously can be done to reform and improve the condition of our prisons and prisoners… unless we stop overcrowding our prisons…. It is bananas, it is incompetent, it is inefficient, and it is a waste of life and public money” he said.
How committed is the Prime Minister to prison reform?
“If the Prime Minister is serious about prison reform, why have prison budgets been slashed by a third since 2010, at exactly the same time as the prison population has been growing?” Asked Caroline Lucas MP.
Declining number of prison officers – the root of the problem?
David Hanson MP called on the Prime Minister to explain why figures for suicides, violence and contraband items in prison have continued to go up over the last six years.
“Could it be anything to do with the fact that there are 7,000 fewer prison officers than there were in 2010?” he said.
What does it mean for Wales?
Hywel Williams MP pointed out that although the prisons bill outlines profound changes, there will still be no provision for women prisoners in Wales.
“They are very small in number, but they all have to travel to prisons in England, which causes great difficulties for their families.”
Ms Williams also pointed out that the soon to be opened HMP Berwyn, with a capacity for 2000 prisoners, will be “unable to guarantee that a Welsh-speaking pastor will be available, even though it is serving largely Welsh-speaking north Wales” she said. Adding, “there is therefore a great deal that could be done”