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Justice Secretary calls time on failing prisons in white paper to help cut crime and protect society

 

  • More than £100m annually to strengthen the frontline with 2,500 more prison officers
  • Rigorous new standards to get prisoners off drugs and into work
  • Prisoners to be tested for drug use on entry and exit from prison and on English and maths so progress made on the inside can be measured
  • Results to be published in new league tables to drive reform and improvements across the estate
  • New duty for Secretary of State intervention when prisons are failing
  • A £1.3bn modernisation programme to create 10,000 modern prison places with Wellingborough the first site to be named for potential redevelopment

Prisons must become safer if they are to cut unacceptable reoffending rates and help reduce crime, Justice Secretary Elizabeth Truss said today as she unveiled major reforms to the system.

An extra 2,500 prison officers will strengthen the frontline as part of a major overhaul of prison safety to combat drug abuse, gang violence and rising attacks on staff and prisoners.

The Justice Secretary said the measures outlined in the Prison Safety and Reform White Paper were vital to cut reoffending rates, which see more than 100,000 crimes committed annually by ex-prisoners – costing society £15bn a year.

Representing a major shake-up of the prisons system, wide-ranging measures include giving governors more powers over education, work and health. They will also be held to account on an agreed set of a standards with prisons’ annual performance to be published in new league tables for the first time.

If a prison is shown to be failing by the Chief Inspector of Prisons then the Secretary of State will have a new legal duty to intervene.

Under the new measures, offenders will be tested on entry and exit from prison to show how well jails are performing in getting offenders off drugs and giving them the basic education skills they need to find work on release.

Justice Secretary Elizabeth Truss said:

“It is absolutely right that prisons punish people who commit serious crimes by depriving them of their most fundamental right: liberty.

“However, our reoffending rates have remained too high for too long. So prisons need to be more than places of containment – they must be places of discipline, hard work and self-improvement.

“They must be places where offenders get off drugs and get the education and skills they need to find work and turn their back on crime for good.”

The White Paper comes after £14m was announced last month to hire 400 extra officers in ten of the most challenging prisons aimed at curbing a surge in violence and self-harm fuelled by dangerous psychoactive substances.

Today’s measures include no-fly zones over prisons to combat the new scourge of drones dropping drugs and contraband into jail, while the Government continues to work with mobile phone operators to block illegal mobile phone use through cutting-edge technology.

Three hundred sniffer dogs have been trained to detect dangerous psychoactive drugs – described as a “game changer” in prison safety and all prisons can now test for these deadly substances. The Justice Secretary said:

“These extra officers and new safety measures will help us crack down on the toxic cocktail of drugs, drones and mobile phones that are flooding our prisons, imperilling the safety of staff and offenders and thwarting reform.”

The reform package reiterates the Government’s commitment to a £1.3bn building programme to replace the most dilapidated prisons and create 10,000 modern prison places across the estate. It also confirms HMP Wellingborough as the first site to be earmarked for potential redevelopment, with further announcements to be made in due course.

The White Paper is the first in a series of reforms for managing offenders, with plans to reform the way we manage female and young offenders to be unveiled in the New Year.

The White Paper includes reforms in a number of key areas:

Safe and secure prisons:

  • Creating a new network of ‘no-fly’ zones to block drones flying dangerous illicit items into the prison estate, the fitting out of prisons with cutting edge technology to block illegal mobile phones; and testing offenders for drugs on entry and exit from prison;

Raising standards:

  • Rating prisons on their ability to run safe and decent regimes which reform offenders, cut crime, and keep streets safe – showing which prisons are making real progress in getting prisoners off drugs and into education and employment
  • Enshrining in law what the public and Parliament can expect prisons to deliver– making sure prisons operate under a rigorous system of accountability, scrutiny and support, and holding the Secretary of State to account for their performance;

Empowering governors:

  • Giving every single governor greater authority to run their prison the way they think best – moving power from the centre and into the hands of hard-working, trusted staff to deliver lasting improvements and equip offenders with the tools to lead a better life on release.

Stronger accountability and scrutiny:

  • Overhauling accountability and giving greater bite to the inspection regime so action is taken swiftly – and seriously – where prisons are failing in their duties – including a new emergency trigger for the Justice Secretary to take direct action, with sanctions including the issuing of formal improvement plans to ultimately replacing the leadership of the prison.
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