Crack down on drugs, drones and mobile phones promises Truss

Justice secretary announced White Paper prison reforms in parliament this week


Liz Truss: First female Lord High Chancellor. Image: Dominic Lipinski/PA, The Guardian

Prisons in Parliament brings you up-to-date on the last week of politics and prisons. What’s been said? And by whom? Get it all here. 

The prison system in England and Wales is under serious and sustained pressure… Too many prisoners are missing out on the chance to reform and too many are going on to reoffend when they leave prison” said the justice secretary last week.

The long awaited White Paper set out the government’s measures to reform the prison estate and reverse the cycle of reoffending.

Liz Truss explained that rehabilitation is to be the aim of prison. “My starting point is to refocus the system so that everyone is clear that safety and rehabilitation is the purpose of the prison system” she said.

The key White Paper reforms:

  • 2,500 more prison officers across the prison estate
  • A dedicated prison officer for each inmate, offering regular, one-to-one support
  • Body-worn cameras for staff
  • New drugs tests and 300 sniffer dogs
  • Crack down on mobile phones and the use of drones
  • Greater autonomy for governors and greater scrutiny of performance with national prison league tables
  • £1.3 billion to modernise and build new prisons


Shadow prisons minister, Richard Burgon said the reforms were “too little too late” and blamed the government’s cuts for the state of our prisons.

“The root cause of the prison crisis is the political decision to cut our prison service back to the bone, and today’s announcement feels a lot like “too little, too late”. The Secretary of State wants the headline to be “2,500 extra prison staff”, but 400 of those jobs have already been announced, and, in fact, it is 2,500 “extra” after a reduction of more than 6,000 on the front line.”

The number of prison staff has indeed been reduced by more than 6,000 since 2010 whilst the prison population has remained the same, at 85,000. This population also far exceeds  the 76,000 capacity of the prison estate.

The Howard League for Penal reform welcomed the government’s decision to reverse cuts to staffing but called for measures to address the chronic overcrowding.

“What we desperately need is a real commitment to trying to lower prison numbers and reduce overcrowding. Instead, the government seems set on repeating the mistakes of previous administrations in seeking to build its way out of the problem. It has never worked before and will not work today.”

Truss defended the decision not to reduce the prison population. “I am not in favour of an arbitrary reduction in the number of prisoners in our prisons. What I am in favour of is reducing reoffending rates” she said. 

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