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UK: White Paper on Prison Safety and Reform

3rd November 2016

The White Paper on Prison Safety and Reform was presented to Parliament by the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice (LCSSJ) Rt. Hon. Elizabeth Truss on 3rd November 2016. The White Paper notes that nearly half of all prisoners go on to re-offend within a year in the UK, and that prisons are not working as an effective response to crime.

It also notes that the current level of violence and safety issues in UK prisons need to be addressed. For prisons to work requires a huge cultural and structural change within UK prisons – “a transformation away from offender warehouses to disciplined and purposeful centres of reform where all prisoners get a second chance at leading a good life”.

Amoung proposed areas of reform are:

  • "The right framework for improvement"

To build the right framework for improvement, there will be an overhaul how the system is configured around governors so that: there is a statutory purpose for the prison system around which everyone working in it can unite; the role of the Secretary of State for Justice is clear, including how she will account to Parliament for her performance; there is a transparent process overseen by Ministers for holding governors to account; and inspection and other scrutiny arrangements are sharper and, where appropriate, evidence and data-driven system.

The Ministry of Justice will explore the option of putting the Prisons & Probation Ombudsman on a statutory footing.

  • "Raising standards"

The four purposes prisons will need to deliver will be to - protect the public; maintain safety and order; reform offenders to prevent more crimes from being committed; and prepare prisoners for life outside the prison.

  • "Empowered Governors"

The White Paper proposes the change will be led by governors through putting them at the centre and giving them greater control to innovate and make the right changes for prisoners to reform, whether that be the provision of a specialist education course or access to support services.

The White Paper also proposes increased accountability and scrutiny on prison governors, with the publication of league tables to show which prisons are making progress in the standards set down by the reforms.

  • "Safe and secure prisons"

According to the White Paper, Governors will be backed by prison staff who are not just security guards and minders but also mentors. Staff will have the resources, authority and tools needed to take on the challenge of transforming lives. Greater levels of autonomy for the frontline will accompany greater transparency for the public and Parliament.

  • "Developing leaders and staff"

The capability of existing staff will be improved by: developing a capability strategy to support governors and senior managers to take on new responsibilities; developing a bespoke prison leadership programme by the end of 2017; introducing an improved induction and support programme for new staff; and training existing staff to take on new responsibilities such as providing one-to-one support to prisoners. The number of prison officers will increase to 2,500 by 2018.

  • "Building the right estate for reform"

The White Paper states that for prisons to be places of safety and reform, there needs to be a fundamental shift in the way that the prison estate is organised and operates, and a significant improvement in the overall quality of the buildings across the prison estate. To do this, the recommendations are: open HMP Berwyn, near Wrexham in Wales in February 2017; invest £1.3 billion to build up to 10,000 new adult prison places; build and open five new community prisons for women; and close prisons that are in poor condition and those that do not have a long-term future in the estate.

Click here to read the White Paper for Prison Safety and Reform in full.

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