The new prison reform white paper has rightly been met with scepticismby Richard Burgon / November 7, 2016 / Leave a comment
Last week’s Prison Safety and Reform White Paper was published in the face of a crisis engulfing our prison service. I said in the Commons Chamber that it was a Conservative-created cuts crisis, although the Secretary of State presiding over it—Liz Truss—refuses to admit it.
The root cause of the prison crisis is the political decision to cut our prison service back to the bone, with almost £1 billion taken out of the National Offender Management Service since 2010. The story in our prison system since then has been one of staff cutbacks, spiralling violence and increased drug use.
Thursday’s announcement felt like a tacit admission of that, but also feels like too little, too late.
Prison safety has been in the news recently following the tragic killing of Jamal Mahmoud in HMP Pentonville on 18th October and prison officers losing control of a wing at HMP Lewes on 29th October—when just four were left on duty. And only yesterday, several hundred prisoners at HMP Bedford took over at least one wing of the prison for a number of hours.
The Chief Inspector of Prisons, Peter Clarke, recently described our prisons as “unacceptably violent and dangerous places.” The upsurge in violence has seen a total of 100,000 recorded assaults in prison since 2010, and in the past 12 months alone a 21 per cent increase in prison deaths, a 26 per cent increase in self-harm incidents and a 34 per cent rise in assaults. Last year, for the first time, there were over 100 self-inflicted deaths in the prison estate.