Surge in jail population adds to strain on overstretched prison service

时间:2019-10-08  作者:花麦腚  来源:澳门拉斯维加斯平台  浏览:36次  评论:64条

An unforeseen summer surge in prisoner numbers in England and Wales is adding to the pressures on a jail system that is already “woefully short of spare capacity” and subject to frequent riots that take out cell spaces, a former head of the prison service has warned.

, the last director-general of the Prison and Probation Service, has told the Guardian that the rise in prison numbers has “more or less wiped out” the value of a boost in the number of prison officers and prevented the closure of older jails.

“Trying to find a safe way through the problems facing Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service, while at the same time ensuring must be near impossible without substantial additional funding for staff resources,” said Wheatley.

“It matters because prisons are in crisis and haven’t got enough staff to manage the planned population, let alone the equivalent of a couple of big prisons full of extra prisoners,” he said.

“So far Ministry of Justice ministers seem to be publicly ignoring the problem and doing nothing except issue cheery press releases ... which suggest all is going precisely to plan and prisons are on track to be ordered and safe places where staff can spend more time reforming offenders.”

Wheatley says a Cumbrian prison lost the use of an entire wing only last week because of a serious disturbance, while another riot happened four weeks ago because there were only 20 officers on duty to supervise more than 1,000 inmates at a .

Record , including a 20% increase in assaults in the past year, have been seen and there is anxiety over of the introduction of the next phase in the ban on smoking in prisons due to come into effect this week.

Wheatley’s concerns echo a warning from the president of the prison governors’ association earlier this month that the unforeseen surge in numbers had left them with at a time when many prisons are already in crisis.

The number of prisoners locked up in England and Wales has risen by 1,200 since May to 86,413, despite fewer cases going through the courts. Wheatley says the current population of 86,413 is 1,900 higher than the official 2016 projection of prison numbers for this summer, which anticipated jail numbers would fall to 83,700 by next June.

Revised projections issued last Thursday by the Ministry of Justice now anticipate that there will be 2,700 more prisoners by next June than the original 2016 projection suggested. There are now fewer than 800 “spare” places in the system with official “usable operational capacity” of just 87,209.

“It is unusual for the projections to be so wrong so quickly. Something significant has changed in sentencing. It has to be sentencing because the latest statistics say that less cases are going through the criminal courts,” said Wheatley. “The projections were seriously optimistic and did not take account of the courts’, particularly the crown courts’, increasing use of custody versus non-custodial disposals and the trend towards longer sentences.”

The former prison service director-general says it matters because the funding for 2,500 extra prison officers promised by December 2018 was intended to cope with a prison population that was 1,900 smaller than it is now and 2,700 smaller than it will be in June 2018.

“2,700 is roughly three times the full crowded capacity of Belmarsh [prison in London] so this is a non-trivial increase in a system already woefully short of spare capacity and subject to frequent riots which take out accommodation. Haverigg [in Cumbria] for example lost a wing as a result of a serious disturbance last week.

“It will prevent HMPPS closing old accommodation as they open new more efficient accommodation which is a major plank of their strategy to reduce cost and make the best use of the staff available.”

The latest MoJ workforce figures show that there has been a net increase of 868 prison officers since January as the a further 2,500 gets under way. But Wheatley says that recruiting and retaining staff in London and the south-east has been made very difficult because of government pay policy.

“The [in Hertfordshire] at the end of July was a prisoner reaction to a weekend of severely restricted regime. It was the result of there being less than 20 officers on weekend duty to supervise over a 1,000 prisoners and highlights that this is a real problem,” he said.

The justice secretary, David Lidington, has acknowledged that the prison system is going through a and he has lost a parliamentary slot for the . Earlier this month he said he wanted to see prison numbers reduced but said that would only happen if r and judges, magistrates and the public had full confidence in other punishments, such as sentences served in the community.

A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: “We will always have enough prison places for offenders committed to custody by the courts and set staffing levels accordingly.

“Prison numbers can fluctuate which is why we have a robust set of plans in place. This includes modernising the estate and building new accommodation. We are also transforming our prison estate and investing £1.3bn to deliver 10,000 new places.”

The spokesperson added that 550 places of the 2,100 capacity new in Wales had already been brought into use, a new 200 place house block at is due to open next year, along with a further 262 places being brought back into use in the coming months.

The spokesperson added that no targets had been set for prisons to become smoke-free “They will only become smoke-free when it is appropriate to do so,” they said.