Justice Secretary calls time on failing prisons in white paper to help cut crime and protect society

November 2016 – London, UK – Justice Secretary embarks on a major shake-up of prisons to help cut £15bn cost of re-offending.

  • More than £100m annually to strengthen the front-line 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
  • 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

Prisons must become safer if they are to cut unacceptable re-offending rates and help reduce crime, Justice Secretary Elizabeth Truss said today as she unveiled major reforms to the system.

An extra 2,500 prison officers will strengthen the front-line as part of a major overhaul of prison safety to combat drug abuse, gang violence and rising attacks on staff and prisoners.

The Justice Secretary said the measures outlined in the Prison Safety and Reform White Paper were vital to cut re-offending rates, which see more than 100,000 crimes committed annually by ex-prisoners – costing society £15bn a year.

Representing a major shake-up of the prisons system, wide-ranging measures include giving governors more powers over education, work and health. They will also be held to account on an agreed set of a standards with prisons’ annual performance to be published in new league tables for the first time.

If a prison is shown to be failing by the Chief Inspector of Prisons then the Secretary of State will have a new legal duty to intervene.

Under the new measures, offenders will be tested on entry and exit from prison to show how well jails are performing in getting offenders off drugs and giving them the basic education skills they need to find work on release.

Justice Secretary Elizabeth Truss said:“It is absolutely right that prisons punish people who commit serious crimes by depriving them of their most fundamental right: liberty. However, our re-offending rates have remained too high for too long. So prisons need to be more than places of containment – they must be places of discipline, hard work and self-improvement.They must be places where offenders get off drugs and get the education and skills they need to find work and turn their back on crime for good.”

The White Paper comes after £14m was announced last month to hire 400 extra officers in ten of the most challenging prisons aimed at curbing a surge in violence and self-harm fuelled by dangerous psychoactive substances.

Today’s measures include no-fly zones over prisons to combat the new scourge of drones dropping drugs and contraband into jail, while the Government continues to work with mobile phone operators to block illegal mobile phone use through cutting-edge technology.

Three hundred sniffer dogs have been trained to detect dangerous psychoactive drugs – described as a “game changer” in prison safety and all prisons can now test for these deadly substances. The Justice Secretary said:

“These extra officers and new safety measures will help us crack down on the toxic cocktail of drugs, drones and mobile phones that are flooding our prisons, imperilling the safety of staff and offenders and thwarting reform.”

The reform package reiterates the Government’s commitment to a £1.3bn building programme to replace the most dilapidated prisons and create 10,000 modern prison places across the estate. It also confirms HMP Wellingborough as the first site to be earmarked for potential redevelopment, with further announcements to be made in due course.

The White Paper is the first in a series of reforms for managing offenders, with plans to reform the way we manage female and young offenders to be unveiled in the New Year.

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