Thursday, 12 July 2018

Speech Just a Smokescreen

It would seem we aren't the only ones less than impressed with David Gauke's prison reform speech the other day. Rob Allen suggests the timing had something to do with publication of HM Chief Inspector's Annual Report:-

A Fresh Crackdown on Crime in Prison - if Only

Many of the great and the good of the prison reform world gathered yesterday morning at Church House to hear Justice Secretary David Gauke’s second major speech on prison reform in six months. His words were well enough received by an audience mostly relieved that he hadn’t been shifted to another post.

Good that he’s found £30 million to repair prisons and equip more cells with phones. But its relatively small beer and maybe not new money. Of the array of initiatives he announced, quite what “digital categorisation” and “drug diagnostics” will deliver remains to be seen. And as for “Lifetime Offender Management”- well it doesn’t exactly sound like a ringing endorsement of the rehabilitative ideal. Increasing release on temporary licence, improving incentives and creating more in the way of enhanced living conditions for prisoners who engage in rehabilitation sound promising if not entirely new. Forgive the scepticism, but as with Reform and Resettlement Prisons before them, there’s always the worry that these will be the stuff of speeches and press releases rather than sustainable real-world practice.

In-Cell telephones apart - the more progressive the policy ideas, the more aspirational and less concrete they become. Gauke, for example thinks too many people go to prison for prolific petty crime and short custodial sentences should only be used where absolutely appropriate. So what will he do? Introduce legislation restricting their imposition? Instruct the Sentencing Council to revise their guidelines? So far neither has been mentioned. It won’t happen of its own accord, particularly with probation in such a state.

The reason for the timing of Gauke’s speech became clear today, with the Chief Inspector’s excoriating annual report on prisons. Peter Clarke has seen conditions which he says have no place in an advanced nation in the 21st century. And prisons are still becoming less safe not more. For Clarke, “improvement has yet to materialise”. Both staff and prisoners alike seem to have become inured to conditions that should not be accepted.

Cleverly getting his retaliation in first, Gauke was trying to give a rather more positive impression of the Government's management of penal affairs - as well as blunting the impact of Clarke's report.

Just in case he looked too liberal, Gauke's Church House policies were framed as “a fresh crackdown on crime in prison”. If only. The real crime in prison of course is that they have been allowed to deteriorate so far.

Rob Allen


This from the Guardian:-

Prisons squalid and dangerous due to staff cuts, report says

Prisoners in England and Wales are enduring some of the most disturbing conditions ever seen as violence and self-harm rockets due to stretched resources and staff shortages, the chief prisons inspector has said. Peter Clarke said the level of assaults, drug use, and squalor had “no place in an advanced nation in the 21st century”.

Clarke, a former senior police officer, said there was an obvious correlation between the decline in resources and staff available to the prison service and the increase in violence and self-harm in prisons.

Clarke’s annual report for 2017-18 said staff and prisoners had become inured to the awful conditions, which included rat-infestations, double-occupancy of single cells, and food being prepared and eaten near uncovered toilets. “Of course, I realise that in recent years many prisons, short of staff and investment, have struggled to maintain even basic standards of safety and decency,” Clarke said.

“Some prisons, in very difficult circumstances, have made valiant efforts to improve. Others, sadly, have failed to tackle the basic problems of violence, drugs and disgraceful living conditions that have beset so many jails in recent years. I have seen instances where both staff and prisoners alike seem to have become inured to conditions that should not be accepted in 21st century Britain.”

He adds: “It is noticeable that the huge increase in violence across the prison estate has really only taken place in the past five years, at the time when large reductions in staff numbers were taking effect.” Clarke said assaults in prisons had shown an “inexorable rise” from 15,000 in 2007 to 29,000 in 2017, while incidents of self-harm shot up from 23,000 in 2007 to 44,000 in 2017.

In comments to journalists, the chief inspector said there was “a pretty obvious correlation if you look at that between the period prior to the significant decline in resources and staff that were available to the prison service”. He added: “Terrible conditions that people seem to have lost the ability to recognise as not being good but also as not being bad. It’s just become the normal.”

Clarke also criticised the failure of many establishments to act on his office’s previous recommendations. The report also raises the “shockingly” high numbers of inmates who acquire a drug habit behind bars, noting that surveys showed 13% of adult men reported developing a problem with illicit drugs after they arrived.

The prisons minister, Rory Stewart, said the government was investing an extra £16m into cleanliness in jails and £7m for in-cell telephony to improve rehabilitation and stem the flow of illegal mobiles, as well as £14m into tackling organised crime.

The head of the Prison Service, Michael Spurr, said: “Many challenges remain in the coming year but the increased funding for frontline operations and investment in the estate will help us to better tackle issues such as drugs and poor living conditions. We have a robust and coherent strategy to drive up standards and I’m confident that we will make significant progress over the next 12 months.”

The shadow justice secretary, Richard Burgon, said: “The crisis in our prisons has now become an emergency – as Labour has long warned it would. The Tories’ ideological decision to axe thousands of prison officers and slash prison budgets is to blame for this unprecedented failure. “The government must now take responsibility for some of the worst prison conditions that inspectors have ever seen. Instead of tinkering around at the edges, the government needs to outline an emergency plan and new funds to make our prisons safe and humane.”


  1. In response to the comments abut omic/e3 in the NW yesterday:

    So which prisons, who are the agencies & what's the rate?

    Seriously, I continue to be stunned by the Tory economics whereby public services (nhs, social services, prisons, probation) utilise agency workers - punish your core employed staff but handsomely reward those with no commitment beyond 3/6/12 month contracts.

    Those agency shareholders must be creaming it in on top of the enhanced hourly rate. Might there be a link to those companies involved in private prisons, CRCs, Facilities Management, etc?

  2. HMPPS ann report 2017/18 shows £61m spent on agency staff & £10m on severance.

    Spurr doesn't seem to be receiving a bonus but Phil Copple gets a £15,000 present.

    1. For those wanting something else to do on Sunday afternoon:

  3. There are plenty of examples of the Tory Government lies, corruptions, inefficiencies and theft from Public Services creating suffrage for the general population every day yet people still vote for them in their droves - what is their motivation to do this?

  4. Have a look at ‘red snapper recruitment,’ ( rumoured to be part of G4S but not verified) or Sanctuary services. Jobs all over the North West including a number of prisons.
    Take no notice of the ‘£75:00 per day,’That only applies if you are stupid enough to agree to it.
    I am told that there are people earning 40 to 50 k pa but with no paid hold or sick pay. They are earning more at hat the ACE in Manchester plus £1:00 per mile plus allowances - remember them?
    Ask your manager, ask them to confirm or deny.
    Meanwhile the business plan for 18/19 is published today and promises a revised pay scale but no automatic pay progression.
    Read the document under Community initiatives.

    1. PO rate: £26.00 per hour & 45 pence per mile + holiday pay.

  5. Had a circular from napo.’Could you cover your outgoings if you are too ill to work?’
    I thought it was about an improvement in my terms and conditions but no, they are selling insurance to cover what we have lost in recent years

  6. "Follow the money"