Political News Updates

18.05.2016

Parliamentary Briefing: Queens Speech - Prison Reform

The POA have given a cautious welcome to the prison reform agenda as set out by the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Justice. This welcome is conditional on the basis that the reforms are intended to make our prisons safer, more decent and increase security all of which will provide establishments and institutions that can help offenders address their behaviour and reduce reoffending.

Having safe, decent and secure prisons has to be the bed rock upon which the successful education and training programmes the Government wish to see introduced can be delivered. At the moment many of our prisons are not in this position.

The Government plan to introduce legislation to extend the additional freedoms for executive governors further. These changes will see prisons potentially become “independent legal entities”. Though the Government say this will give the new executive governors the power to “enter into contracts; generate and retain income; and establish their own boards with external expertise”, the POA are concerned that this could be a precursor to privatisation and a separation of these establishments from the Crown.

Though, the devolution of powers and authority to local level may well help to deliver the improvements that the Government, the general public and the POA want, the POA believe that these reform prisons must retain a core of minimum basic standards that will apply to all prisons, reform or otherwise.

The fundamental link between prisons and the Crown dates back 900 years. We do not believe there is a need or necessity to move away from this position. Prisons are, and must remain, Crown establishments under Crown control.

Despite the provision of the names of the first 6 establishments, which were to become the country’s first autonomous reform prisons, neither the Queens Speech nor any of the associated papers provided any detail on how the proposed devolvement would deliver the safer prisons our county needs.

There was no detail of how the devolving of the provision of services in prisons to local executive governors will cut the level of self-harm, would cut the number of deaths in custody, will cut prisoner on prisoner violence, will cut prisoner on staff violence, will cut the amount of drugs and new psychoactive substances that are a blight on our Service. Indeed there was no detail of how the devolving of matters to the local level will increase the support and care for those in our prisons suffering with mental health issues.

Before governors and prison staff can deliver the training, education, programmes and work that will enable the rehabilitation of offenders we all want to see, all of these issues need to be addressed. The POA are clear that without the introduction of measures to address these areas, all other desirable outcomes are doomed to failure.

The POA again state that we welcome the intention to see the delivery of better education, more training and better work for offenders and will support such initiatives. The Union is equally clear that these must be delivered in safe, decent and secure prisons. At the moment, due to the cuts that have ravaged establishments, this is not the case.

The Government, Ministry of Justice, NOMS, Executive Governors and Governors must look to putting the basics right first without that the remainder of their aspirations will not be delivered.