Prisons in parliament

“We must ask whether prison is the right place for some of those who offend”


WTF by a prisoner called Peter at HMP Dovegate. Source: Prison Watch UK

Prisons in the press brings you the best articles from the past week to keep you up-to-date on prison news.

Opposition day debate: Prisons under scrutiny

Richard Burgon shadow Justice Minister, brought the motion: 

That this House

notes with concern recent serious disturbances at Swaleside, Birmingham, Lewes, Bedford and Moorland prisons against the backdrop of a reduction of more than 6,000 frontline prison officers since 2010;

notes that a planned recruitment drive has a target of hiring fewer than half the number of officers lost, and that previous recruitment drives have failed to achieve their targets;

recognises that violence in prisons is at record levels with assaults up by 34 per cent since 2015, assaults on staff up by 43 per cent since 2015, and more than 60 per cent of prisons currently overcrowded;

and calls on the Government to reduce overcrowding and improve safety while still ensuring that those people who should be in prison are in prison.

“The Government are imprisoning more people than they have decided they can afford” said the shadow Justice Minister. Drawing attention to staffing cuts, rising violence, overcrowding and a poor record of rehabilitation:

Understaffed and under pressure

“Prisons are less safe because staff are far outnumbered. Prisoners are spend more time in their cells because they cannot be managed outside, and prisoner frustration is heightened by the lack of time out of their cells.

Inadequate rehabilitation

“When they leave prison, they will be in exactly the same position as when they entered. They might still be drug-dependent. They might still be homeless. They might still be in poverty.

Rising violence and frustration

“The increased use of drugs the consumption of illicit alcohol… an increased gang culture in prisons; retribution for non-payment of debts; violence generated by the recovery of stolen contraband such as mobile phones; and frustration caused by a reduction in recreation time as a result of a shortage of prison officers”

Is prison the answer?

The shadow Justice Minister concluded the motion by urging MPs to discuss whether it is right to send so many to prison: “we must ask whether prison is the right place for some of those who offend”

To read the full debate, click here.


Prison officer retention 

What reasons are there for such high prison officer turnover?  Asked Stephen Timms, Labour MP.

Justice Minister Sam Gyimah outlined the measures the government is taking to improve retention of new staff. He did not explain the reasons for such high turnover.

  • Improving the support that new officer applicants receive before applying
  • Support through training and probation period for new staff
  • Greater autonomy for prison governors to chose the staff to fit their prison

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