Rory Stewart: "I'll resign if prison violence doesn't improve"
The prisons minister says airport-style security in prisons would cut off the supply of drugs to inmates.
By Erwin James 23 Jan, 2019
By any measure our prisons are in a state of crisis. Last year, there were almost 50,000 incidents of self-harm among the 82,500 prisoners in England and Wales. Drug-fuelled violence is at an all-time high, with more than 32,500 assaults, 10,000 of which were against staff. At least 87 prisoners took their own lives, five were murdered and more than 300 died of ill-health or natural causes. The scale of the problem is not lost on the prisons minister, Rory Stewart, who has vowed to resign if he doesn't achieve improvements.
One of the major reasons that there is so much violence is that there are too many drugs, and one of the reasons for that is insufficient perimeter security, says Stewart. He intends to make it more difficult for criminals to get drugs into prisons. Stewart is focusing on 10 of the worst-performing prisons, including Wormwood Scrubs, Leeds and Nottingham, which he dubs his "10-prison project". They have been given an extra budget of £10m to improve safety and tackle drug-taking on top of the £60m the government has allocated to prisons since last July.
"We have to move to airport-style security, where every single prison officer, every member of staff goes through an airport-style security check every day. Anyone, in fact, who enters a prison, including me." Why? Stewart says this would ensure contraband is picked up, but more importantly, that staff who could come under pressure from a criminal, "sometimes it's not that they themselves are criminals, but they're being blackmailed, or their family is being threatened", can then say, "I'm sorry, I can't do it because they are searching me every single day." He also wants staff lockers to be outside the prison gates. "A single transparent bag, going through an x-ray scanner is all they should be able to take in. We should have a clear expectation that they put on their uniforms before going in - all of that needs to happen."
But surely the obvious way to reduce violence would be to reduce prison numbers, particularly among those serving short sentences who make up the highest number of reoffenders? Stewart implies that he would like to scrap sentences of less than three months. "I've no doubt that the wrong kind of short sentence can damage the individual and ultimately damage the public because it can lead to more reoffending," he says. It is "long enough to damage the person and not long enough to change their life".
Prison revamp call for family friendly jails for thousands of 'hidden victim' kids who visit
It's been revealed that children visited Scottish jails 25,000 times in the past three years.
By Andy Philip 28 Jan, 2019
Bosses are being urged to make prisons more "family friendly" after it emerged children visited jails 25,000 times in the last three years.
The figures were revealed by the Lib Dems with MSP Liam McArthur highlighting the impact of the experience on youngsters.
He said: "Children book in to visit prisons 9000 times a year. They are the hidden victims of crime. Going through a parent's imprisonment can have a lasting impact.
"That's why it's important we have a family friendly prison service so positive relationships can be maintained so far as is possible. It is essential this isn't overlooked as the SPS tries to cope with increasingly overcrowded prisons."
There were 8945 visits by children to Scots jails in 2016, with 8578 in 2017 and 7534 last year.
Previous Scottish Government research showed that about 20,000 children in Scotland every year experience a parent going to jail, more than the number affected by divorce.
The Scottish Prison Service said families can access specialist officers, use play areas and make use of "bonding sessions". It added: "We recognise the need to support families and positive relationships as an essential element of rehabilition."
32 football clubs join prison scheme to help tackle reoffending
More than a third of all Premier League and Football League clubs have agreed to be part of a programme to help tackle the UK's reoffending rate.
By BBC NEWS 23 Jan, 2019
The Twinning Project aims to pair clubs with their local prison to deliver coaching and refereeing courses.
Founded by former FA and Arsenal vice-chairman David Dein, the new initiative has attracted 32 clubs so far.
Justice Secretary David Gauke said: "I am delighted to see so many clubs supporting this wonderful project."
The rate of sign-up surpassed Dein's initial target to have 20 clubs at launch and discussions are ongoing to further expand the programme's reach among the remaining 60 clubs.
The programme is backed by the Government as well as the Football Association, Premier League, English Football League, the Professional Footballers' Association, match officials body PGMOL and the League Managers Association. The first courses are expected to begin this spring.
The project will be open to men, women and young offenders in custody with the aim of preparing participants for release and finding future employment.
Mr Gauke added: "Rehabilitation should be at the heart of every prison and although I am clear that offenders are sent to prison as punishment, they should leave with it having been a real turning point in their lives."
Prisons Minister Rory Stewart said: "I am hugely grateful to David and to the community departments and the clubs themselves, who have invested their time and money in engaging with offenders and helping them reintegrate into society and lead more positive lives."
Prison pepper spray plan risks inmate safety, rights body says
Use of Pava by prison officers could cause pain and serious injury, UK watchdog says
By Jamie Grierson and Damien Gayle 9 Oct, 2018
The rollout of pepper spray to prison officers across England and Wales puts inmates at risk of inhumane treatment, the head of the UK's human rights watchdog has said.
David Isaac, the chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), said the use of Pava, a synthetic incapacitant pepper spray, to control behaviour in jails could cause pain and serious injury.
Rory Stewart, the prisons minister, announced on Tuesday that money would be spent on arming every officer in adult jails with Pava, after a pilot by the Prison Service.
Isaac said: "We understand that prison officers need methods to protect themselves and other prisoners but such protections must not be at the expense of the basic rights of prisoners. Everyone has the right to live without fear of inhumane treatment, and the use of Pava spray in a detention environment is a way of controlling behaviour that causes pain and can seriously injure."
Can football clubs help stop prisoners reoffending?
"A blessing that landed at my feet" - that's how Andrew describes the football coaching course he enrolled in during his time at Brixton Prison.
By Katie Wright 31 Oct, 2018
the 45-year-old, from north London - whose surname we've chosen not to reveal - was sentenced to five years in jail in 2015 for drug dealing.
Andrew says he was reaching crisis point as his release date neared - until Fulham's course came along.
"I love football, I play it all the time. At my age what a wonderful opportunity, because I couldn't think of a job I could see myself fitting into at this time of my life," he says.
"I'm not really that good at anything. I've got no qualifications. I couldn't see myself sitting in an office. This course was brilliant."
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'I was treated like dirt': Former prison officer reveals how working conditions forced her to leave service
'I was told if you're not happy here, there's the door. There was no support, I'd never been so excited about a job but I came out of it feeling so hateful towards the service'
By May Bulman 30 Aug, 2018
Tess Wale had wanted to become a prison officer for years. At the age of 39, after having children, she was finally able to do the 10-week training course and qualify. On 29 May 2017, she drove to HMP Long Lartin in Worcestershire for her first shift.
The Birmingham resident arrived on her first day to find that nobody was aware it was her start date. She was told to go home. On the second day, she was given a brief induction and sent straight to the wing.
"For my first few days on the wing, I didn't have any protection. I had no baton," she tells The Independent. "I was walking around with inmates who were in there for life for whatever crimes they had committed, without any form of protection."
HMP Lindholme prison officer 'strangled unconscious' by inmate
A prison officer was left unconscious after he was "strangled" by an inmate, a union has said.
By BBC NEWS 12 Oct, 2018
He was one of two officers assaulted in separate attacks at HMP Lindholme in Doncaster on Thursday night, the Prison Officers' Association (POA) said.
The other officer was "punched in the throat" and was recovering at home, POA chairman Mark Fairhurst said.
The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) confirmed a worker at the jail was attacked and an inmate had been segregated.
Following the attacks, staff refused to go back into the category C jail and staged a protest.
The POA said one of the officers "was strangled to the point of unconsciousness".
"Despite the seriousness of these unprovoked assaults the prisoners had to be put back in their own cells as the segregation unit was full, emphasising the problems at Lindholme," it said.
Prison officer jailed for smuggling ₤10,000 of drugs
Claire Bennett, 44, also leaked prison intelligence to inmates at HM Young Offender Institution in Aylesbury.
By BBC NEWS 8 Nov, 2018
A prison officer who smuggled in ₤10,000 of drugs has been jailed for six-and-a-half years.
At Aylesbury Crown Court, Bennett, of Hailsham, East Sussex, admitted misconduct in a public office and offences relating to supplying drugs to prisoners.
Thames Valley Police said her conduct "compromised safety" at the prison.
Bennett, of Sandbanks Close, admitted one count of misconduct in a public office, one count of supplying a controlled drug of class B, one count of possessing a controlled drug of class B and one count of conveying a list 'A' prohibited article into/out of a prison.
PC Maureen Moore, from the Thames Valley Police prison investigation team, said the officer's actions "jeopardised the safe running of the wings".
She added: "Bennett knowingly brought drugs into the prison which causes danger and violence to both prisoners and officers alike.
"Her conduct severely compromised the safety of staff and visitors to the prison."
Prisons minister Rory Stewart MP said he was "pleased" to see Bennett receive a "significant sentence".
He added: "Corrupt and criminal activity like this undermines a whole prison and puts our hard-working staff at risk."
Government reveals second new prison in England to be privately run
HMP Glen Parva in Leicestershire and HMP Wellingborough will be built using public capital
By Jamie Grierson 6 Nov, 2018
Two new jails announced by the government are to be privately run, it has emerged, as the role of profit-making prisons comes under increased scrutiny after the crisis at the formerly G4S-operated HMP Birmingham.
In a parliamentary written answer, the prisons minister, Rory Stewart, confirmed that HMP Glen Parva in Leicestershire will be privately run.
the MoJ previously said a new jail - HMP Wellingborough - would be privately run. Both prisons will be built using public capital.
In August, ministers were forced to take the operation of HMP Birmingham away from G4S while public sector officials attempted to restore order to the prison. High levels of violence, drug use and self-harm had prompted the chief inspector of prisons to issue an urgent notification process to the justice secretary. This is the most severe course of action available to the inspector.
The shadow justice secretary, Richard Burgon, who tabled a written question asking if the new prisons would be privately run, said: "Just how bad does it have to get until the government ends its obsession with the private sector running huge swathes of our justice system in order to make a quick profit?
"This summer two flagship justice privatisations ran aground, with HMP Birmingham brought back under public control and the government forced to end the private probation contracts early. But the Tories refuse to learn the lessons.