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David Cameron promises “biggest shake-up of prisons since the Victorian era”

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

 

You can’t help thinking that Mr. Cameron had said to his schedulers “please can I go and talk about anything other than the EU referendum.”

Unfortunately, as the PM arrived to deliver a major speech to the Policy Exchange think tank about prison reform, someone at No.10 had briefed the press that leaving the EU meant a Calais style jungle camp would pop-up in Kent. (I imagine that same person has just been offered a 'career development opportunity' at DEFRA)

The first journalist the PM called on seized the opportunity to ask about this (as did others); cue an increasingly red-faced Mr. Cameron. He may have wished he could have stayed a little longer during his earlier visit to HMP Onley.

What he wanted covered was what he described as “the biggest shake-up of prisons since the Victorian era.”

Key proposals:

  • Six "reform prisons" to be created in England and Wales as part of a pilot to tackle high levels of violence and re-offending. Locations were not confirmed.
  • Prison governors to be given autonomy over their operation and budgets
  • New powers to speed up the deportation of foreign inmates
  • All jails to be assessed through league tables
  • Increased focus on assessing how successful prisons are at cutting reoffending, improving literacy and helping inmates find jobs
  • The use of satellite tracking will lead to some convicted criminals only spending the weekend in prison
  • Ministers will work with phone companies to block signals to prisons
  • Use the principals of free schools to turn young offenders institutions into academies
  • Allow former prisoners to apply for job positions without declaring unspent convictions upfront
  • To protect the £130 budget and accept recommendations within the Dame Sally Coates review.

With apparent amnesia that he has been Prime Minister for nearly six years, Mr. Cameron said “failure of our system today is scandalous”.  In particular he stated that current levels of prison violence, drug-taking and self-harm led to 600 incidents of self-harm, at least one suicide and 350 assaults including 90 on staff within an average week.

 

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