I completely agree that this is an issue that needs addressing as soon as possible.
Due to Tory cuts, violence in prisons is spiralling out of control. Assaults on prisoners, staff and prisoner self-harm are all at record highs. There is now the highest number of prisons labelled as “serious concern” there has been in years.
Conservative cuts to staff and budgets are directly to blame for this epidemic of violence which have left our prisons a danger, not only to officers and inmates, but to the wider society. There are 2,000 fewer prison officers than in 2010, this is after recent recruitment. As a result of this, tens of thousands of years of experience has been lost with 40% of prison officers having less than three years’ experience.
The driving down of prison staffing levels and budgets was an explicit attempt, by the former Secretary of State for Justice Chris Grayling, to lower the costs of public prisons to those in the private sector. Grayling also oversaw the disastrous privatisation of probation and the outsourcing of prison maintenance works to Carillion. This has proven to be a dangerous race to the bottom.
In November the Government announced that two new jails will be privately run. The Government must end their fixed obsession with private sectors before this gets any worse. Despite terminating the privatised probation contract two years early, and after a £500m bailout, the Government have announced plans to keep the new contracts in the private sector.
The Government will soon decide on if they should return HMP Birmingham to the private sector, after it was returned to the public sector following unprecedented failures by G4S. This should not be allowed to happen and prisons should be run by the public sector.
Labour are demanding a reversal of the Government’s failed policies and are calling for:
- An emergency national plan and budget to make our prisons safe by ending overcrowding and understaffing across the prisons estate.
- A reversal of the recent decision to build more privately run prisons.
- For the Government’s current review of probation to include returning all of the sector to the public sector
- A moratorium on all further privatisation until there has been an independent review of the private sector’s involvement in justice.
Labour has made it clear that in office we will end the discredited outsourcing of prison maintenance works, oppose the building of more private prisons and bring PFI prisons back in-house and return all of probation to the public sector. We have appointed Lord Ramsbotham to head up a review into probation to look at how this can best be achieved.
I can assure you that I will keep pressing the Government to restore staffing levels to prevent further violence in prisons.