Prisons minister vows to quit if inmate violence and drug use do not fall in a year

Official data shows violence, self harm and drug use rising in many of Britain's jails

Joe Watts
Political Editor
Friday 17 August 2018 10:08
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Prisons minister Rory Stewart gave himself 12 months to sort the problem out
Prisons minister Rory Stewart gave himself 12 months to sort the problem out

The prisons minister has vowed to quit his job if he fails to reduce the levels violence and drug use in problem-hit jails.

Rory Stewart made the pledge as he launched a £10m campaign to tackle “acute” issues in 10 prisons.

It comes after recent official figures showed self-harm incidents and assaults in jails were at record levels and an increasing amount of drugs and number of mobile phones are being found in cells.

Speaking to BBC Breakfast as the new money was announced Mr Stewart said: “I will quit if I haven’t succeeded in 12 months in reducing the level of drugs and violence in those prisons.

“I want to make a measurable difference. That’s what this investment is around.

“I believe in the prison service, I believe in our prison officers. I believe that this can be turned around and I want you to judge me on those results and I will resign if I don’t succeed.”

Asked how much of a reduction he would consider a success – 25 per cent or 10 per cent – Mr Stewart said it would be “something of that sort”.

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He added: “I’m not talking about a minor reduction, I’d want you to feel that this had been a substantial reduction and that it was going in the right direction.”

Under the new scheme, £6m has been earmarked to bolster physical security with drug-detection dogs, body-scanners and improved perimeter defences.

Some £3m will be spent on improving the fabric of the chosen jails, including repairs to basic infrastructure like broken windows.

The third strand of the programme will see £1 million spent on bespoke training programmes and interventions for governors, with a staff college model inspired by the military set to be developed.

Mr Stewart acknowledged that the funding was “relatively modest” but added: “The key really is the philosophy we bring to this, in other words the training, the support for prison officers.

“It is one of the most challenging jobs anywhere in Britain today, standing on a prison landing outside a cell door working with prisoners.”

The 10 prisons selected for the programme are Hull, Humber, Leeds, Lindholme, Moorland, Wealstun, Nottingham, Ranby, Isis and Wormwood Scrubs.

The Ministry of Justice said the jails have struggled with acute problems including high drug use, violence and building issues.

Officials said the scheme will be up and running in all 10 prisons by the end of the year, with “tangible results” expected within 12 months.

It is the latest in a string of steps aimed at tackling the safety crisis that has gripped the prisons system in recent years.

Figures published last month showed finds of drugs and mobile phones increased by 23 per cent and 15 per cent respectively in the year to March.

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