Prison officers, and those involved inthe criminal justice sector, regularly face aggression, violent behaviour and verbal abuse from prisoners whilst on duty. With assaults on prison staff at an all-time high, – recent figures show an astounding 5,432 cases of reported abuse within in a twelve-month period in England and Wales alone - methods for deterring aggression and capturing evidence are now key.
Edesix VideoBadge Body Worn Cameras have been selected by prison services throughout the UK, including privately run prisons and Her Majesty’s Prison Service in England & Wales, Scotland and most recently Northern Ireland. These lightweight device scan be worn as part of the officer’s uniform, requiring nothing more than a simple swipe of their ID badge to assign a camera which is charged and ready to record video and audio at the press of a button. Not only do these secure, encrypted devices capture vital evidence, they act as a deterrent to negative behaviour, fit seamlessly into the daily routine of the prison officer, and allow secure and simple sharing, redacting, management and storage of footage.
INDEPENDENT MONITORING BOARDS NATIONAL ANNUAL REPORT
Commenting on today’s publication of the IMB National Annual Report (5 June 2019), Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust said:
“This report makes very sobering reading for the new prisons minister, Robert Buckland. There can be no disputing the first hand, directly observed evidence of over 51,000 individual visits to prisons. The report describes a catalogue of failure to deliver even the most basic standards of care and a chronic waste of human and physical resources in our prison system.
The pressures on our custodial system are well documented. The government has pledged funding to address the problem but what can be done now to improve officer and inmate safety?
At the end of last year HMP Birmingham saw what was dubbed the ‘worst prison riot since Strangeways’. Four wings at the privately-run Category B prison were overrun by inmates, riot squads were deployed while prison inmates posted ‘selfies’ of themselves wearing prison officers’ uniforms and showing off sets of keys.
Police seizing more than 10,000 knives during a week-long campaign has provided insight into what could the norm if the service was adequately funded, says the national chair of the Federation.
All forces joined Operation Sceptre between 11 and 17 March which saw 1,372 people arrested, including 516 for a knife related offence through a series of measures including intelligence-led stop and searches and weapon sweeps.
John Apter, national chair of Police Federation of England and Wales, said: “The staggering amount of knives seized in such a short period of time not only highlights the severity of the issue, but shows just what our hard-working members are able to achieve when they are resourced properly. However, it must be pointed out that operations such like this are only possible if officers are diverted from other vital duties which is a deeply concerning situation.
RELEASE ON TEMPORARY LICENCE (ROTL) CHANGES ANNOUNCED
Commenting on today’s announcement (28 May 2019) by the Ministry of Justice on the introduction of new changes to release on temporary licence (ROTL), Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust said:
“This is a welcome step in the right direction. More than three years after it was first promised, the government has finally delivered a significant shift towards the greater use of temporary release (ROTL), recognising its proven benefits in terms of preparing prisoners for a crime free life. Prisoners, employers, families and the public at large will all benefit from these changes, building on an exceptional track record of success. There is much further to go—prisoners are serving longer sentences than ever before, and these changes will mainly benefit only the minority who have managed to get to an open prison towards the very end of their time inside. Ministers should not wait a further three years before taking the next step.”
Commenting on the HM Inspectorate of Probation report on Post-release supervision for short-term prisoners: the work undertaken by Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs), Mark Day, head of policy and communications at the Prison Reform Trust, said:
“The chief inspector could not be clearer in her assessment of the failure of compulsory post-release supervision for short sentenced prisoners. While the reforms appear to have had no discernible impact on reoffending, recall rates have rocketed, disrupting lives and placing unnecessary pressure on an already overcrowded and overstretched prison system. Since its introduction, recall rates for men have increased by 29%, while for women they have risen by a shocking 166%.
EXTENSION OF PRESUMPTION AGAINST SHORT PRISON SENTENCES
Commenting on today’s announcement (17 May) by the Scottish Government that an affirmative order has been published to extend the existing presumption from three to 12 months, Alex Hewson, Senior Policy and Communications Officer at the Prison Reform Trust, said:
“Today’s announcement is a welcome step in reducing our reliance on ineffective short prison sentences. It’s grounded in the evidence, and is a critical part of wider efforts to deliver more effective responses to crime that benefit society, and those convicted.
Commenting on today’s announcement (16 May) by the Ministry of Justice that National Probation Service will take over responsibility for all offender management, Peter Dawson, Director of the Prison Reform Trust, said:
“David Gauke’s pragmatism offers hope that the damage done to the probation system by his predecessor can eventually be repaired. Courts are crying out for a simpler system in which they can have confidence. In legislating to make these sensible changes, the Justice Secretary should take the opportunity to implement his policy to abolish pointless short custodial sentences. He can bring to an end the nonsense of people being subject to compulsory post release supervision, which has led to an explosion in the number of people recalled to custody but done nothing to reduce re-offending.”
Commenting on the Ministry of Justice’s announcement today (4 May 2019) that a new Counter Corruption Unit has been established, Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said:
“This is a welcome announcement. Anyone who lives or works in prison knows that corrupting a member of staff is one of the most effective ways to get drugs in. But turning suspicion into proof and prosecution takes time and specialist input, so it is good to see this unit set up.
“The other half of the equation, set out in the prison service’s recently published drug strategy, is to reduce the demand for illicit drugs in the first place. That means both better treatment and a better way of life generally in prisons, so that prisoners stop seeing drugs as a way to make their sentence bearable.
MINISTRY OF JUSTICE SAFETY IN CUSTODY STATISTICS
Commenting, Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said:
“These numbers show that there is a very long way to go before our prison system is safe for the people who live and work in it. The rise in self-inflicted deaths is especially concerning.