Prisons in Parliament – 12 Dec

Prison reform, detached duty and young & transgender prisoners 

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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.

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Prison reform

The Secretary of State for Justice, Liz Truss, answered a wide range of questions about prisons from safety to staffing to mental health to drones.

Much of her focus was on reiterating steps the government is taking on staffing:

  • Guards: Promised a dedicated officer for every six prisoners by recruiting an extra 2,500 front-line officers including an extra 400 staff in 10 of the most challenging prisons. Job offers have already been made to 280 people according to Ms Truss, but she also admitted that there is an issue with too many sick days.
  • Governors: “We are specifying the what, but giving governors much more freedom over the how, because they are the people with the expertise.” This includes enabling governors to offer market supplements of up to £4,000 to recruit officers, and retention payments of up to £3,000 to keep those officers on board.
  • Apprenticeship scheme: a new fast-track scheme for graduates, and a scheme to recruit former armed forces personnel.
  • Dogs: developed tests to detect new psychoactive substances and trained up 300 sniffer dogs.

Ms Truss said: “Last week I was at HMP Pentonville, which now has patrol dogs whose barking helps to deter drones.” Really?

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Young people in prison 

Christina Rees, Shadow Minister for Justice, asked how many times children under the age of 18 have been re-categorised and transferred to adult prisons in the last year for which figures are available.

Phillip Lee, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice, said in the last year, one young person under the age of 18 was moved to a Young Offender Institution accommodating young adults aged 18 to 21.

He said it was a “rare” and “unusual practice” used only in “exceptional circumstances” and with sign-off by both the Chief Executive of the Youth Justice Board and the Deputy Director of Custody Young People’s Estate.

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Officers on detached duty 

Lord Bradley asked what was the average number of prison officers on detached duty in each month in 2015 and 2016 to date.

Lord Keen of Elie said:

“the deployment of staff between prisons on detached duty is a regular and normal part of prison resourcing. It allows staff to be allocated from prisons with the capacity to provide them, to those where additional staffing is required.”

The table below sets out the average number of prison officers on detached duty by month in 2015 and 2016.

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Transgender prisoners

Daniel Zeichner, the Shadow Minister for Transport, asked an impassioned question: He said the government’s “very thin eight-page review” on the care and management of transgender offenders referred to “a number of events linked to transgender prisoners” that attracted attention last year.

“Those so-called ‘events’ were, in fact, the deaths in the space of a month of two transgender women held in men’s prisons. Will the Minister tell us why the Government failed to acknowledge those tragedies in their review, and why their proposals are so meagre?”

Caroline Dinenage, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education, took exception.

“I question all those statements. The response is not meagre; it is thorough. The Government are firmly committed to ensuring that transgender offenders are treated fairly, lawfully and decently, and that their rights are respected. A revised instruction drawing on the conclusions of the Ministry of Justice’s “Review of care and management of transgender offenders” was published on 9 November. It is already being applied, and will be implemented fully by 1 January.”

Separately, Phillip Lee said a NOMS Advisory Board for transgender offenders has been established to monitor the care and management of transgender offenders.



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