Super-secure prison is planned

THE PRISONS DEBACLE
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The Independent Online
HEATHER MILLS

Home Affairs Correspondent

A super-secure Alcatraz-style prison for high-risk, sophisticated prisoners, another to take psychotic and volatile inmates, and the setting up of armed response units are central to Sir John Learmont's blueprint for the future.

His withering 180-page report contains 127 recommendations for root and branch reform, designed to end what he described as: "a chapter of errors at every level and a naivety that defies belief". As well as improving the physical security of jails, the report recommends restructuring and streamlining management, a reappraisal of the risks posed by all inmates and major changes in their treatment.

"This inquiry has found a great deal that needs to be put right within the prison service, spanning leadership, structure, the management chain and the ethos of the Service," he says.

In what will be a controversial recommendation to a Home Secretary who does not want to appear soft on prisoners, he also recommends use of in-cell television as a means of control. He suggests that its provision and the hours it can be used could be used as an incentive for good behaviour. "The fact that so many other countries have gone down this road is proof positive of its advantages." He identifies as a priority the need to end the drug culture in jails and suggests removing prisoners' rights to private cash, which has allowed some to have access to thousands of pounds. All cash should be earned and jails should increase the amount of work available to inmates.

Sir John suggests mandatory "closed" visits, where visitors and prisoners are divided by glass screens, for all exceptional risk inmates, like IRA prisoners. He also says that Judge Stephen Tumim, the independent Chief Inspector of Prisons - who had warned about lax security at Parkhurst before the escape - should have an enhanced role with an increased staff.

The cost is estimated at more than pounds 134.5m in the first four years.

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