Yesterday the Secretary of State for Justice Liz Truss announced a raft of prison reforms. Anyone working in the prison system knows that a lack of staff, institutions holding more people than their normal operating capacity, and the impact of New Psychoactive Substances have made prisons unsafe. They have been unsafe for everyone in them, the prisoners, the staff, the employees and the volunteers of Clinks members. Measures to address these issues are welcome.
We will work with our members to form a view on the proposed reforms, making use of the experience and expertise of voluntary organisations. Before we do that we will summarise the current white paper in a briefing and consult the sector.
The Ministry of Justice gave the headlines as:
- 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
- A 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
I have provided a summary of the headlines in the white paper below. There is obviously far more detail but we will explore with the sector in due course.
The right framework for improvement – this will look at how the accountability and role of the Secretary of State, prison governors, and prison staff is described. Equally it will look at new inspection arrangements that are “sharper” and can trigger improvements. It also includes a new commissioning cycle from 2017 that allows ‘empowered’ governors to purchase services/products themselves. Bringing in a transparent process for governors to account and improving the collection of data and use of evidence.
Raising standards – this is described as establishing “an overarching statutory purpose of the prison system”, offering an opportunity to say what prison should be for. The white paper also proposes a league table for prison performance measures.
Empowering governors – it is proposed that prison governors have greater authority and flexibility to run prisons alongside greater accountability. By April 2017 governors will be able to define their own workforce needs. They will also have greater control over education, work, family, offender behaviour and resettlement programmes, including greater influence over healthcare provision. Education and family budgets will be devolved and more budgetary autonomy will go to governors. Decisions will be devolved on key operational policies, for example allowing them to make better use of Release on Temporary License (ROTL).
Safe and secure prisons – some of the announcement focussed on no-fly zones to stop drones dropping illicit substances into prisons and blocking mobile phones. However, the focus on security also includes better training for prison officers. Prisoners will get a dedicated officer that can engage with them one-to-one and there will be improvements to the case management system to co-ordinate interventions and services. The announcements also put forward a number of measures about tackling staff corruption, organised crime and gangs, religious radicalisation and extremism, and more money for intelligence staff in prisons.
Developing our leaders and staff – an extra 2,500 staff will be recruited with £104 million to be invested in new staff. There will also be new prison leadership programmes developed, and improved induction and training for staff to take on new responsibilities (such as one-to-one support to prisoners). There will be a graduate recruitment scheme, a new apprentice scheme for prison officers, and a campaign to attract former armed forces personnel to become prison officers.
Building the right estate for reform – there will be investment in new prisons and also the closure of existing ones. Over the next 4 years they propose to ‘simplify’ the organisation of the prison estate, open HMP Berwyn, invest £1.3 billion to build an additional 10,000 prison places, and open five new community prisons for women. Old prison sites will be redeveloped at HMP Wellingborough and HMP & YOI Glen Parva. A further announcement about prison closures is due to be made but we expect to hear about prisons being decommissioned in the very near future.
A comment from our CEO Anne Fox has been published in the Guardian today, which offers some of our initial thoughts. If you have any questions about this white paper or would like to work with Clinks on its response then please do contact us.