8 February 2022

PCS response to prison strategy white paper

Prisons and the justice system should be measured on the outcomes the public want, less crime, less recidivism, and a safer society to live in, we have made clear in our response to the government’s consultation on its prisons strategy white paper.

We agree with the stated aims of the strategy to cut crime and protect the public with a modern, secure prison estate designed to rehabilitate prisoners. We strongly support a justice regime that has courts punishing offenders for their crimes, by imposing sentences, but then concentrates on rehabilitation and addressing recidivism to stop re-offending when people are released back into society.

Our members include instructors who work tirelessly with offenders providing prisoners with education, work-focused skills, training and employment. PCS believes that these core skills and strengthened family ties will give every prisoner an opportunity to leave behind their previous life of crime.

We think it is important that the white paper acknowledges that increasing sentences and employing 20,000 more police officers will better protect the public. This clearly shows that the government is accepting that the cuts it made has put the public at risk.

A prison estate that is safe and secure for staff and prisoners

PCS welcomes such a long overdue commitment to the safety and security of staff and prisoners. However, again we wonder how will these much-appreciated words be put in place. Much will not be done because of budgetary constraint, especially as the number of inmates is set to rise while at the same time staff shortages remain. We would approve of a system that holds governors to account for ensuring prisoners and staff are safe, but this will be unfit for purpose if it isn’t made clear to governors that there will be personal consequences or disciplinary measures for any failings to comply with central guidance.

Covid in prisons

Covid has shown that when there are more restrictions on movement of prisoners, mixing of prisoners, prisoners working in smaller groups both staff and prisoners feel safer. We need to create calm and ordered environments in future to ensure what we have learned throughout this period is not wasted.

Performance of prisons

Measuring performance of prisons is basically a spreadsheet exercise that does nothing to assist prisoners to rehabilitate. Getting prisoners out to work in poor conditions, undertaking meaningless tasks and in some case sitting in workshops and education with nothing to do, just so a prison can be at the top of a league table. Prisons and the justice system should be measured on the outcomes the public want, less crime, less recidivism, and a safer society to live in. Governors need less autonomy and need to be held accountable for their actions if they continue to fail a particular area or prison.

Building the next generation of prisons

PCS opposes the building of new prisons to be run by the private sector. Prisons are not for profit.