Centre calls for prison reform, not reform prisons

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

The Centre for Crime and Justice Studies has called on the Ministry of Justice to shelve plans for so-called 'reform prisons'. Instead, the Ministry should focus its energies 'on the important task of real and sustained prison reform'.

Our call comes in evidence we submitted to the House of Commons Justice Committee inquiry into prison reform, which has been published today.

In our evidence, we challenge the 'notion that prisons can be places of rehabilitation, if only the "right" number of people are imprisoned, the "right" staffing ratios are in place, or the "correct" programmes are delivered'.

On the day that prison officers are engaging in unofficial action over concerns about prison safety, our evidence points out that there are a 'number of formidable challenges facing the prison system'. These include high levels of suicide and self-harm, stressful working conditions for prison staff and deteriorating buildings and infrastructure. 'These challenges have unfolded against the backdrop of a rising prison population in England and Wales', our submission notes.

The government needs to get the prison population back under control, we argue, through a long-term, managed reduction in the prison population:

The prison population grew on average by five prisoners a day between 1995 and 2015. A target to reduce the prison population by an average of five prisoners a day, if successfully met, would deliver a population of around 80,000 by the time of the planned 2020 General Election; 70,000 by 2025; 61,000 by 2030 and around 52,000 by 2035.

Read our submission as a pdf, or as a webpage.

Access all the submissions here.