- biggest shakeup of prisons since Victorian times begins, as first six reform prisons named, including one of Europe’s largest prisons, HMP Wandsworth
- freedoms for governors extended to all key aspects of prison management as MoJ also publishes review on overhaul of prison education
- Prisons Bill centrepiece of new government legislative programme, which is focused on big social reform to extend life chances and opportunity for all
The country’s first autonomous reform prisons are today named as the biggest shake-up of the prisons system since the Victorian era begins.
The announcement of the 6 trailblazer sites in London, the East Midlands and north-east, including one of Europe’s largest prisons – HMP Wandsworth – means that more than 5,000 offenders will be housed in reform prisons by the end of this year.
The other prisons are HMP Holme House, HMP Kirklevington Grange, HMP Coldingley, HMP High Down and HMP Ranby.
These prisons will give unprecedented freedoms to prison governors, including financial and legal freedoms, such as how the prison budget is spent and whether to opt-out of national contracts; and operational freedoms over education, the prison regime, family visits, and partnerships to provide prison work and rehabilitation services.
A new regime of transparency will hold governors to account, with comparable statistics to be published for each prison on reoffending, employment rates on release, and violence and self-harm.
The sweeping reforms of the prison system will further the government’s commitment to public protection through cutting crime by reducing reoffending.
The government will use legislation to extend these freedoms much further – enabling prisons to be established as independent legal entities with the power to enter into contracts; generate and retain income; and establish their own boards with external expertise. This will amount to the biggest structural reform of the prisons system for more than a century.
Prime Minister David Cameron said:
This is a One Nation Queen’s speech from a One Nation government. It sets out a clear programme of social reform, so we break down the barriers to opportunity and extend life chances to all. And nowhere is that reform needed more than in our prisons.
For too long, we have left our prisons to fester. Not only does that reinforce the cycle of crime, increasing the bills of social failure that taxpayers must pick up. It writes off thousands of people.
This is a government, and this is a country, that sees the best in all, and wants to give everyone the chance to rise up and make the most of themselves.
So today, we start the long-overdue, long-needed change that our prisons need. No longer will they be warehouses for criminals; they will now be places where lives are changed.
These new freedoms sit alongside the government’s commitment to replace decrepit, ageing prisons with modern establishments suitable for the needs of prisoners today – to be built with £1.3 billion of investment announced at the Spending Review.
More autonomous reform prisons will follow later this Parliament. And the 9 new-build prisons announced at the Spending Review will be established with similar freedoms.
Justice Secretary Michael Gove said:
Prisons must do more to rehabilitate offenders. We will put governors in charge, giving them the autonomy they need to run prisons in the way they think best.
By trusting governors to get on with the job, we can make sure prisons are places of education, work and purposeful activity. These reforms will reduce re-offending, cut crime and improve public safety.
The government is also today publishing Dame Sally Coates’s review of education in prisons, commissioned by the Justice Secretary. Alongside new Teach First-style programmes in prison, this will recommend robust learning plans to track individuals’ progression, and allowing governors to fund more stretching education programmes.
The government is also announcing the 8 police forces areas chosen for the piloting of satellite tracking – tags that track offenders’ movements using GPS technology. It is expected that the pilots will pave the way for the roll-out of the equipment across the country, and lead to new options for the management of offenders and the reduction of reoffending.
Pilots will begin in September in Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire, Staffordshire, West Midlands, Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northampton.