Prison service 'is under strain'

Braintree and Witham Times: Juliet Lyon says ministers must heed the warning signs  Juliet Lyon says ministers must heed the warning signs

The prison service is creaking under "unprecedented strain" because of fewer staff, worsening safety and fewer rehabilitation opportunities, according to the Prison Reform Trust

A new report by the trust blamed severe austerity cuts to the Ministry of Justice budget for creating a "race to the bottom" in prison conditions.

It comes as prison numbers soared by more than 500 in the two weeks between May 9 and May 23, compared to an overall increase of 1,496 in a whole year between March 2013 and March 2014.

The report, called Prison: The Facts, also found two-thirds of prisons are overcrowded, holding two inmates in cells designed for one.

And it criticised the use of super-size prisons and plans to build a new jail in Wrexham with a capacity of 2,000, claiming evidence suggests smaller prisons are safer and more effective.

Juliet Lyon, Director of the Prison Reform Trust, said: "These latest figures reveal a prison service having to cope with unprecedented strain.

"Ministers must heed the warning signs. Rising assault and suicide rates, fewer staff and less constructive activity, call into question the Government's commitment to safety and decency.

"Slashing prison budgets and introducing harsher regimes while warehousing ever greater numbers overseen by fewer staff is no way to transform rehabilitation."

The trust said the service was being "stretched to its limits" because of a combination of a 23% reduction in the number of prison officers at public prisons since 2010, high levels of staff sickness, the closure of 15 prisons and the transfer of two prisons to the private sector.

It warned that reductions in staffing levels impact on safety and the amount of time prisoners are able to spend engaged in purposeful activity.

The number of occasions the Prison Service Gold Command, the national group set up to deal with serious incidents and disturbances, has convened over the last three years has increased by 153% since 2011-12.

A total of 1,575 serious assaults took place in prisons last year, the highest number for a decade and a rise of more than 300 over the previous 12 months.

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: "We are making prisons more effective and cheaper to run not by cutting services or reducing quality but by fundamentally changing the way we operate.

"Our current estates strategy has been described by the National Audit Office as the most coherent and comprehensive for many years.

"We have replaced old, inefficient buildings with newer ones that are cheaper to run.

"Our focus is not about how big a prison should be; it is about how effective it is at reducing reoffending.

Cuts to the Ministry of Justice budget are due to total £2.4bn by 2016.

Comments (7)

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6:39am Wed 28 May 14

The-Professionals says...

at a basic cost of between £50 to £100,000 per inmate no wonder it is busting at the seams and that is at the bottom end. high level inmates cost an infinitum amount of money to incarcerate, the situation is a bottomless pit, unquantifiable. to deny liberty is one of the most barbaric constitutions along with the death penalty. lack of education and skills, lack of knowledge and common sense, is stifling our young male populous. if you have no job or career prospects, you should automatically be offered a place in the armed forces as a national service volunteer recruit. this would alleviate a huge chasm in deprivation and poverty in the youth of today. I served with the thatcher initiate back in the very late 70's it did work at the time. shame it was not developed further. this would go a long way in lessening the burden on the incarceration system.
at a basic cost of between £50 to £100,000 per inmate no wonder it is busting at the seams and that is at the bottom end. high level inmates cost an infinitum amount of money to incarcerate, the situation is a bottomless pit, unquantifiable. to deny liberty is one of the most barbaric constitutions along with the death penalty. lack of education and skills, lack of knowledge and common sense, is stifling our young male populous. if you have no job or career prospects, you should automatically be offered a place in the armed forces as a national service volunteer recruit. this would alleviate a huge chasm in deprivation and poverty in the youth of today. I served with the thatcher initiate back in the very late 70's it did work at the time. shame it was not developed further. this would go a long way in lessening the burden on the incarceration system. The-Professionals
  • Score: 1

8:36am Wed 28 May 14

cosmick says...

If you take 2.4 bn out of the budget things can only go downhill.
If you take 2.4 bn out of the budget things can only go downhill. cosmick
  • Score: -1

9:13am Wed 28 May 14

philmorris says...

who ever makes the numbers up that it cost 50gs for a prisoner is skimming off the top no way for two prisoners does it cost to live in a 12 by 8 cell??
who ever makes the numbers up that it cost 50gs for a prisoner is skimming off the top no way for two prisoners does it cost to live in a 12 by 8 cell?? philmorris
  • Score: -1

9:25am Wed 28 May 14

-trigg- says...

a combination of a 23% reduction in the number of prison officers at public prisons since 2010, high levels of staff sickness


A total of 1,575 serious assaults took place in prisons last year, the highest number for a decade and a rise of more than 300 over the previous 12 months.


The report appears to miss the rather obvious link between reduced staffing numbers and the increase in the amount of serious assaults. There is also no mention that the "high levels of staff sickness" are at least partially due to these assaults.

Research suggests that prison officers are far more likely to be assaulted at work than the police but since it all takes place behind prison walls the establishment pretend it isn't happening.
[quote] a combination of a 23% reduction in the number of prison officers at public prisons since 2010, high levels of staff sickness [/quote] [quote] A total of 1,575 serious assaults took place in prisons last year, the highest number for a decade and a rise of more than 300 over the previous 12 months. [/quote] The report appears to miss the rather obvious link between reduced staffing numbers and the increase in the amount of serious assaults. There is also no mention that the "high levels of staff sickness" are at least partially due to these assaults. Research suggests that prison officers are far more likely to be assaulted at work than the police but since it all takes place behind prison walls the establishment pretend it isn't happening. -trigg-
  • Score: 0

9:52am Wed 28 May 14

Dream a dream 2 says...

Thats because wrong people are getting the wrong justice... Get adults that want to listen at courts and maybe you will cut wrong accused people serving time ..
Thats because wrong people are getting the wrong justice... Get adults that want to listen at courts and maybe you will cut wrong accused people serving time .. Dream a dream 2
  • Score: 0

10:29am Wed 28 May 14

varteg1 says...

From all I have ever read on this constantly regurgitated matter I have concluded that a great number who are in prison could be effectively dealt with in other ways, at far less cost, and with the benefit of reduced occupation in prisons.
The other constant in the matter is that once we started on reducing tax levels across the board, we commenced on the downhill slide to social service poverty, leading to reductions in employed manpower, reductions of overall service levels in all social enterprise, (NHS, Education etc etc ).

We cannot cheer a slightly thicker wage packet whilst at the same time moaning about matters such as that the subject matter of the above article,
To do so smacks of hypocrisy.
From all I have ever read on this constantly regurgitated matter I have concluded that a great number who are in prison could be effectively dealt with in other ways, at far less cost, and with the benefit of reduced occupation in prisons. The other constant in the matter is that once we started on reducing tax levels across the board, we commenced on the downhill slide to social service poverty, leading to reductions in employed manpower, reductions of overall service levels in all social enterprise, (NHS, Education etc etc ). We cannot cheer a slightly thicker wage packet whilst at the same time moaning about matters such as that the subject matter of the above article, To do so smacks of hypocrisy. varteg1
  • Score: 0

10:35am Wed 28 May 14

afterovid says...

While the flood of foreigners continues to stream into this country, this problem, along with housing, healthcare, schools and social welfare is going to get worse and worse. Immigration should have been top of the agenda 10 years ago. Nearly everyone's standard of living has suffered because of the open door policy.... utter madness... and it's not about being rascist
While the flood of foreigners continues to stream into this country, this problem, along with housing, healthcare, schools and social welfare is going to get worse and worse. Immigration should have been top of the agenda 10 years ago. Nearly everyone's standard of living has suffered because of the open door policy.... utter madness... and it's not about being rascist afterovid
  • Score: 0
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