By all accounts it seems to have been a bit of a mutual 'love-in' at the Howard League's AGM yesterday. In stark contrast to Chris Grayling, who famously refused to have anything to do with the much-respected charity, Michael Gove was only too happy to turn up and charm the audience.
Until we get the text of his speech we will have to rely on the odd tweet, or the BBC's report from Danny Shaw available here. I'm sure the idea of getting prison officers to wear body cameras so as to monitor their behaviour will go down really well with the POA and I dare say some members are already thinking up creative ways of making sure they regularly malfunction.
Continuing with the policy of air-brushing probation completely out of the picture, I gather we didn't get a mention from Gove and he merely talked of an aspiration to 'improve the rehabilitation of prisoners'. How is he going to achieve that by doing nothing to halt the TR omnishambles that is slowly destroying the probation service?
The fact is we continue to lack a champion or effective voice and I don't expect a peep out of the likes of Napo or the Probation Institute. All in stark contrast of course to a very well-orchestrated assault and publicity campaign currently being waged by the police. Here's Danny Shaw's report:-
Justice Secretary Michael Gove has said he wants to reduce the prison population in England and Wales.
Addressing the Howard League for Penal Reform's conference, Mr Gove said he hoped numbers would "fall over time". He also indicated there could be major reforms to sentencing - but added that he did not want to "leap to any conclusions". The use of body-worn cameras, currently being trialled, would improve the prison staff behaviour, he also said.
"If prison officers are wearing body-worn cameras that does mean they're less likely to be assaulted, it also means they're more likely... to behave appropriately and decently as well," he told the central London conference.
The justice secretary was directly asked by a panel member whether the prison population, currently 85,000, needed to be cut. He replied: "Obviously I'd like to see the prison population fall over time. I believe the best way we can do that is by dealing effectively with those offenders who are in our care at the moment, through effective rehabilitation."
Mr Gove's remarks echoed David Cameron's comments at the Conservative Party conference last month, in which the prime minister called for an end to the sterile "lock 'em up or let 'em out" debate. The justice secretary said he wanted to "transcend the old divisions that used to bedevil the debate".
BBC home affairs correspondent Danny Shaw said that in recent years government minsters had tended to shy away from answering questions about wanting to reduce prison numbers, worried that they could appear "soft" or that their aims would not be achieved.
Mr Gove also indicated that there could be major reforms of sentencing. "We do need to look at our whole sentencing framework," he said, adding that he did not want to "leap to any conclusions".
He said more research was needed on the effectiveness of sentencing before devising plans as to how a "more sensitive" regime could be achieved and said it was "worth analysing" the impact of short sentences.
Other options ministers are understood to be looking at include greater use of electronic tagging as an alternative to imprisonment, and reducing the number of inmates who are recalled to jail for beaching the terms of their release.
The Howard League conference was also told about the justice secretary's plans to give prison governors more control and the sell-off of older prisons, which he said had support at the "heart" of government.