Political News Updates


Parliamentary Briefing - Prison Reform

The Prime Minister’s announcement on 8th February 2016 on Prison Reform was, in the opinion of the POA, full of welcome intentions and bereft of detail as to how they were to be delivered.

Considering this was the first speech solely about prisons by a Prime Minister in 20 years, it was well trailed in the national press on the morning of the speech and had all the hype and potential to set out a real path that the Government wished to take. It was disappointing that it delivered so little.

The POA hope that Mr Gove will be able to provide more details on the Government’s plans when he is questioned by the Justice select Committee on the 16th March 2016.

The POA believe that there are a number of policy areas announced by Government that have led to a great deal of uncertainty and this has had a destabilising effect in establishments up and down the country.

New for Old Prisons

When the Chancellor announced in November 2015 that it was the Government’s intention to close prisons, he called them "relics from Victorian times" that stand on "prime real estate”.

In his speech Mr. Cameron re-announced his Government’s commitment to knock down prisons he described as “ageing, ineffective prisons that are creaking, leaking and coming apart at the seams”. He did not, of course, give any indication as to which prisons he was talking about.

Mr. Cameron, like the Chancellor before him, fails to recognise the damage and uncertainty that wide ranging but vague announcements like these have on the morale of hardworking staff who see their jobs as being under threat.

With the exception of HMP Holloway the Government have failed to provide any indication of which other establishments they plan to close.

The POA welcomes the commitment to spend £1.3 billion to build nine new prisons. As yet the POA are unaware of any sites where the Ministry of Justice has planning permission to build any new prison and the Ministry have given no indication of when they will be able to make an announcement on where the first five are to be built.

The POA hope that members of the Justice Select Committee are able to get some answers to these important questions.

Reform Prisons

The central plank of the Government reform plan revolve around the creation of new “Reform Prisons”. The leadership of the prisons will be see “prison governors unprecedented operational and financial autonomy”. But what will this mean in practice?

Mr. Cameron indicated that the governors of these prisons will be able to opt-out of national contracts but failed to say which ones or how this opting out would be achieved without claims for breach of contract.

He also announced that Government plan to “create six such reform prisons this year.” But he did not announce the name of the six prisons or the names of the “innovative governors” who will be tasked with running them. This, like the Governments undisclosed prison closure plans, have increased the uncertainty felt by staff who are working in already difficult conditions across the country.


The POA ask members of the Justice Select Committee to press Mr. Gove to provide answers to these major issues and start to consider the security and stability of both prison staff who work in prisons and the offenders who live within the walls and fences of our prisons.