News | Published August 13 2019

Prisons to receive £100 million funding boost

The government has announced that prisons in England and Wales will receive £100 million of investment to improve security.

Prime minister Boris Johnson wants to see an airport model of security introduced across the country, including X-ray scanners and metal detectors, to stop drugs and phones being smuggled into prisons.

Johnson said this would prevent prisons becoming “factories for making bad people worse”.

The added funding is a major development on promises made by the government last year, in which Theresa May’s administration promised an additional £10 million toward improving security in prisons while Rory Stewart was prisons minister.

During the announcement of the extra funding, the prime minister emphasised the need for the public to see that “justice is being done, punishment being served and therefore feel protected”.

It is hoped that additional investment to enhance struggling prisons will help crackdown not only on prison violence but also the unprecedented rise in self-harm among inmates.

The £100 million will be made available to the Ministry of Justice immediately to go toward an increase in “cutting-edge technology” in prisons to detect and block mobile phones used to “organise drug supplies”.

Frances Crook, who heads The Howard League for Penal Reform, called it “shameful” that such large-scale investment is required in the first instance.

Crook said: "It is shameful that prisons have deteriorated so badly that they have become centres of crime and violence and drugs.

"Now the government has to pour good money after bad to try and solve a problem that they have created.”

While pleased about the plans for extra funding, Andrea Albutt, president of the Prison Governor's Association, has warned that it must not be a drop in the ocean if the problem is to be dealt with.

Albutt said: “This [added investment] can’t be one-off. We do need to have recurring money because it isn't just around the staff to run the kit.

"It is around the technology that will give us a rich source of security, so we need to beef up our security departments in prisons, so we can identify who the key players are in prisons.”

Albutt also suggested the introduction of so-called "wrap-around services” to help inmates deal with drug addictions and help stop them being smuggled into prisons.

She added: ”[Drugs] are an absolute driver of violence in our prisons. It causes debt, it causes bullying, and intimidation.

"If you look at the prison safety statistics over recent years, month-on-month they hit record highs [for] prisoner on prisoner violence, prisoner on staff violence. We have got high levels of suicides, very high levels of self-harm, and this is all linked to drugs."

Justice secretary Robert Buckland believes that the extra funding will have a “transformative effect” on UK prisons.

He said: "This funding will have a transformative effect on prisons and give our hard-working officers the advantage as they tackle this scourge head-on," he said.

The news is the latest of a number of pledges made by the new prime minister upon assuming power, with Johnson having already promised 10,000 extra prison spaces, 20,000 new police officers and an extra £85 million in funding for the Crown Prosecution Service.

The opposition has criticised Johnson’s latest pledge, with Labour shadow justice secretary Richard Burgon saying it falls "woefully short” of what is required.

Lib Dem justice spokeswoman Wera Hobhouse also criticised the plans, calling them a "hollow move” and suggesting that money should be put toward rehabilitation to reform previous offenders.

Hobhouse said: "Boris Johnson can lock people up for longer or search people on their way in and out of prison, but none of this bravado will actually make our streets safer”.

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Authored by

Scott Challinor
Business Editor
August 13 2019

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