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

C#.NET Server Side Developer (C#, XML, WCF, Unit Testing,SQL)

£30000 - £40000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: C#.NET ...

Junior Database developer (SQL, T-SQL, Excel, SSRS)

£20000 - £30000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: Junior D...

Helpdesk Team Leader / Manager

£45000 per annum + pension,medical: Ashdown Group: A successful & reputable gl...

IT Systems Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Letters: The West flounders in the Middle East morass

Independent Voices
David Tennant as Hamlet  

To vote no or not to vote no, that is the question... Although do celebrities really have the answer?

David Lister
All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

Radio 1’s new top ten

The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

The Everton and US goalkeeper was such a star at the World Cup that the President phoned to congratulate him... not that he knows what the fuss is all about
Match of the Day at 50: Show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition

Tom Peck on Match of the Day at 50

The show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition
Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born