Prison failures: Cost-cutting has compromised safety and rehabilitation

With fewer prison staff, the co-operation of those in custody is vital in keeping order

Share

When Chris Grayling took over as Justice Secretary in 2012, he announced a twofold ambition: to bring down the cost of prison, and make life “harder” for those inside. By his own criteria, it would appear Mr Grayling has been doing a stand-up job. Despite the poor performance of many private prisons, an outsourcing drive has sped up – bringing costs down – and plans are in place to create more “mega-jails” that, by packing in prisoners, provide economies of scale. Meanwhile, a report from the Prison Reform Trust details the effect of these changes, combined with drastic budget cuts across the board since 2010, on prisoners themselves: serious disturbances are on the rise, safety is declining, and the number of deaths in custody last year reached the highest level on record.

To outsiders this might look not so much like success, but a hurried and dangerous exercise in cost cutting. It is almost 25 years since the Strangeways prison riot drew attention to the explosive combination of overcrowding prisons and treating those inside them poorly. By ripping up the plans of his predecessor Ken Clarke to increase the number of community sentences, Mr Grayling left himself little option but to keep shunting low-level criminals into ever fewer prisons (16 have been cut under the Coalition). On top of this, harsh reductions in inmate privileges – including the ill-conceived ban on sending in books – have bred a sense of injustice among inmates, the Prison Reform Trust reports.

With fewer prison staff, the co-operation of those in custody is vital in keeping order. Treating prisoners like naughty children (as, for example, in the ban on 18-rated movies) makes this harder, and offers little in the way of rehabilitation. The strenuous denial that a riot occurred in the overstretched Oakwood prison – a flagship private institution, run by G4S – adds to the sense that these reforms are simply creating more problems than they solve.

A whiff of dogma has yet to lift: Mr Grayling let it be known that he wanted to bring in “right-wing” solutions to correct the  “palpable failures” of the left. This is unnecessary politicking. What works is the question, and on no count has Mr Grayling convinced in that regard.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Associate / Partner - Bristol

Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Syrian refugee 'Nora' with her two month-old daughter. She was one of the first Syrians to come to the UK when the Government agreed to resettle 100 people from the country  

Open letter to David Cameron on Syrian refugees: 'Several hundred people' isn't good enough

Independent Voices
Amjad Bashir said Ukip had become a 'party of ruthless self-interest'  

Could Ukip turncoat Amjad Bashir be the Churchill of his day?

Matthew Norman
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project