Are Government Plans to Reform Prisons Sincere?

Written 8th February 2016 by Olliers Solicitors

The Government announced today plans to reform prisons in the United Kingdom. The Prime Minister is expected to criticise the failure of the Prison Sector and expected to announce a more modern approach. Three key proposals are:-

  • PM to set out his vision for a “truly twenty-first century” prison system, while calling for prison reform to be one of the “great progressive causes” of British politics;
  • Six new ‘reform prisons’ to be created this year, with full autonomy over how they operate and spend their budget;
  • Prison education system will also be completely transformed with full control being given to ‘reform prison’ governors, while protecting the £130m per year budget.

Prison Reform

Prison reform is a subject not often tackled by Politicians, and it is believed that the last Prime Minister to address similar issues was John Major many years ago. It is a sensitive subject with right wing media often calling for increased sentences for offenders, more people to be locked up and prison conditions to be harsher for inmates who are accused of living in comfortable conditions. Although successive Governments have at times suggested that they agree that sentences should be longer they have struggled to find the resources to enable this to happen due to the high cost of incarceration. Shifts in policy to make conditions for prisoners harsher can often result in backlashes with the consequence of assaults on prison staff increasing.

Cuts to Prison Budgets

By accepting that there has been a failure in the Prison service, the Prime Minister must be accepting that his Government bears some responsibility for this. The previous Justice Minister Chris Grayling, was widely condemned for a raft of cost cutting proposals that he introduced when in power. The biggest criticism was the suggestion that reducing staff numbers and increasing inmates was leading to conditions whereby the levels of violence against staff was increasing.

Any policy to reform a failing system is to be encouraged. However the preferable approach may be to not have introduced policies in the first place that contributed heavily towards the problem.

Olliers Solicitors – Specialist Criminal Defence Lawyer

Written by Toby Wilbraham, specialist criminal defence lawyer. Toby is a highly experienced criminal solicitor having qualified as a Solicitor in 2002. He has since qualified as a Higher Court Advocate and has considerable criminal defence experience. Toby combines methodical preparation with excellent advocacy skills and has a highly impressive acquittal rate.

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