Government seeks to address prisons crisis with extra staff

Justice secretary Elizabeth Truss has announced funding to recruit 2,500 more prison officers as part of the government’s new prison safety and reform white paper. There will also be new measures to test offenders on entry and exit from prison ‘to show how well jails are performing’ in getting them off drugs and giving them basic education and employment skills.

The white paper also includes measures to introduce no-fly zones over prisons to stop drones being used to drop drugs inside the prison walls, as well as extra sniffer dogs. Prisons should 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’, said Truss.

Deaths in custody rose by 30 per cent in the year to June 2016, while suicides and assaults on staff rose by 28 per cent and 40 cent respectively (DDN, September, page 4). A recent report by the Prison and Probation Ombudsman said that prison authorities must to do more to tackle the role of NPS and associated debts in the rising and ‘unacceptable’ levels of violence in the prison estate (DDN, October, page 4).

RAPt CEO Mike Trace – whose organisation recorded a seven-fold increase in reports of NPS use in prisons last year – said that while it was vital to undermine the prison drug market, more also needed to be done to reduce demand. ‘More than half of new arrivals in prison are daily users of drugs, or dependent on alcohol,’ he said. ‘Most seek to continue using inside and, if a way isn’t found to turn them away from the dealer and towards treatment and recovery, their demand fuels the profits of the gangs, which itself is behind most of the violence, disorder, and health emergencies in prison today. We call on the new secretary of state for justice to tackle the issue by prioritising effective drug treatment in the criminal justice system.’

The call for more investment in treatment was echoed by CGL executive director Mike Pattinson, who also stressed the need for better education, training and employment support, as well as provision of safe accommodation on release. ‘Disappointingly there remains a complete absence in thinking and action about some of the other fundamental concerns that impact upon the prison population and therefore the safety of those being detained, namely sentencing reform and a sensible debate about the role of prisons in a modern society and who should be incarcerated,’ he added.

White paper at