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TV, gym, DVDs (and no 18-plus films)... prisoners will have to 'earn privileges' in jails as Government cracks down on lax regime


Prisoners will no longer have the automatic right to a television in their cell and could be barred from going to the gym, wearing their own clothes and watching DVDs unless they are prepared to work, the Justice Secretary Chris Grayling will announce today.

As part of a part of a package of measures to appease right-wing complaints that prisons are too lax inmates will be made to “earn privileges” that are currently automatic.

This will include an expectation that inmates will no longer be able to turn down prison work without consequences while perks such as pay TV will end altogether.

However prison reformers criticised the plans as “punishing people for an idleness that prisons encourage” and said it was “bizarre” to be introducing new layers of red tape which would add to the cost of prison and demands on staff time.

Under Mr Grayling’s proposals to be published today:

* All newly convicted adult male prisoners required to wear prison uniform for at least two weeks.

* At the end of that period prisoners who “do not co-operate with the regime or engage in rehabilitation” will move onto a “basic level” of entitlement and will not be given in cell televisions or regular access to the gym.

* Subscription channels will be removed from private prisons and all Certificate 18 DVDs will be banned.

Mr Grayling said he believe it was not right that some prisoners were spending hours in their cells “watching daytime television while the rest of the country goes out to work”.

"For too long, there has been an expectation that privileges are an automatic right, given simply as a reward for staying out of trouble,” he said.

“This cannot continue.  Prisoners need to earn privileges, not simply through the avoidance of bad behaviour but also by working, taking part in education or accepting the opportunities to rehabilitate themselves.”

But Frances Crook, Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said the plans were unlikely to have any meaningful impact.

“Today’s announcement sees ministers pottering among the flowerbeds while ignoring the burning building before them,” she said.

“The fact that the prison population has doubled in the past 20 years has left prisons overcrowded and staff overstretched, with little choice but to lock people up in their cells all day with nothing to do.

“It is bizarre then to introduce new layers of red tape which will only add to the cost of prison and demands on staff time.”