January 12 2022

‘Scandalous failures’ prompt mass prison reform across England and Wales

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‘Scandalous failures’ prompt mass prison reform across England and Wales

Photographs by Andy Aitchison at PRISONiMAGE, (@prisonimage)


Photograph by Andy Aitchison at PRISONiMAGE, (@prisonimage)

Photograph by Andy Aitchison at PRISONiMAGE, (@prisonimage)

David Cameron yesterday outlined plans for wholesale prison reform, with the announcement made at the first speech focused solely on prisons in over two decades.

The cuts have been announced with the aim of lowering the chronically high level of reoffending amongst prisoners (46%), as well as saving money. The cost of reoffending to the public purse is currently reckoned to be £13 billion per year.

  • Read Alex Cavendish on the PM’s speech here

The current levels of violence, drug-taking and self-harm in prisons are another driving force behind the reforms, which Cameron stated should ‘shame us all’.  On an average week there can be 600 incidents of self-harm, at least one suicide and 350 assaults.

Six pilot ‘reform prisons’ are to be created, offering greater autonomy to governors to control their budgets and overall management. This is designed to ‘remove the bureaucratic micromanagement’ that ‘disempowers’ prison governors. The PM also stated the government would implement the recommendations made in Dame Sally Coates’s review of prison education (soon to be published), with the idea of changing the perception of prisoners to ‘potential assets that should be harnessed’.

Other plans include a league table ranking prison performance with respect to reoffending, employment and literacy, as well as scrapping the need to declare unspent convictions immediately in order to boost job prospects.

Frances Crook, CEO for the Howard League for Penal Reform welcomed the ‘positive rhetoric’ of the speech, but emphasised sentencing reform as the ‘lynchpin’.

‘The Prime Minister is right to say that we do need prisons, and right to say that we don’t need prisons as they are today. Prisons are currently violent and overcrowded. As such, they fail everyone: victims, the public, staff and prisoners themselves. Prison reform, however, is the tip of the iceberg. Improved education and increased autonomy for governors will not work if there are people crammed into filthy institutions with no staff to open the cell doors. We need action now to tackle sentence inflation and the profligate use of prison. Then the Prime Minister’s vision can become a reality.’
Frances Crook

13 responses to “‘Scandalous failures’ prompt mass prison reform across England and Wales”

  1. trevor says:

    what upsets me is David Cameron said that these failures shame us all.
    I don’t agree with that cause the public are not in charge of prisons
    that is the responsibility of government
    and any failures fall upon government’s head not the public.
    we only suffer as a direct result of failed government policy.
    if Anyone doubts that fact…I urge them to look up what the former Justice Secretary ken Clarke said in 2010 about “this revolving door where people go in prison, serve their time and within less than a year half of them have committed more crime.”
    he also produced a green paper which was meant to divert thousands of offenders from prison to bring to an end the Victorian-style “bang ’em up” culture and reduce high re offending rates.
    the fact that 5 years years has passed since that paper was produced and the Prime Minister is now talking about dealing with the “scandalous failures”
    doesn’t make it painfully clear that they are failing in their duty to reform offenders and protect the public?
    the answer is obvious
    and therefore any “shame” should fall on the government
    not the public.

  2. andy weaver says:

    So David the MORON wants prisons to be rated. Well I hope that involves monitoring prison officers ? As there are that many NUMPTY ‘S working in prison’s it’s unbelievable!
    Power does some strange things to some people and some officers treat you as if they actually own the jail. Showing no respect and not helping vulnerable prisoners is what causes suicides. Bullying is rife in British jails and the officers prefer to turn a blind eye to it. Let’s face it HMP ASHWELL IN RUTLAND would still be there today if it wasn’t ran by a bunch of idiots who thought they knew best. Well the prisoners decided enough was enough !! That’s why HMP ASHWELL was burned to the ground, ha,ha. They should have given those prisoners medals for destroying a totally corrupt jail ran by NUMPTY ‘S . Well done lads, we won that battle without a shadow of a doubt. The prison service found out the hard way that this was a perfect example of HOW NOT TO RUN A PRISON. What an expensive lesson they learned in 2009 !! OR DID THEY ? ? Maybe they didn’t learn anything but getting David cam MORON involved is the worst thing they could have thought of. He has proved time and time again that he is 100% out of touch & hasn’t got a clue about real life & real people. If the prison service doesn’t hurry up and get a grip it will end up with more HMP ASHWELL ‘S. Then they will all sit around and say, well we never saw that coming, lol. Prisons should be ran by real men, not idiots seeking power !!

    • trevor says:

      though you were blunt in your views about Prison officers,
      I nevertheless Think you raised some fair points.
      for example,
      in August 2006,
      the guardian newspaper ran a story about a leaked report which basically said that there was up to 1000 prison officers who smuggle drugs and mobile phones into prisons, and a further 500 staff are involved in “inappropriate relationships” with inmates,
      and though the report stated the vast majority of the 45,000 prison staff in England and Wales are honest and operate with integrity,
      it nevertheless leaves the public with the impression that there is institutional corruption within the prison service
      even if it is in the minority.
      and if you take into consideration that in 2005,
      the former Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke
      spoke about prison being like a revolving door
      in which prisoners pass through
      leave and re enter after a short period of time.
      and so he drew up a green paper to supposedly deal with that negative cycle,
      and 5 years on,
      the Prime Minister stands up and makes a public announcement condemning prison as a “scandalous failure”
      yet he failed to condemn Ken Clarke, Chris grayling, and Micheal Gove.
      and yet they are the people responsible for justice and prisons.
      so instead he said the shame is upon us.
      but does that seem fair Andy?
      after all we do our part by paying our taxes which is then spent on the justice system and prisons,
      and the prime minister turns around and says the scandalous failure of prison shames us all?
      I think the shame is upon him and his cabinet
      because they are the ones who are meant to be in control.
      and yet term after term
      they clearly fail in their duties to help reform convicts and protect the public.
      I mean don’t get me wrong Andy,
      I am fully aware that MP’s can’t force former prisoners to be law abiding,
      because that is down to each individual.
      often when Prisoners are released they are desperate and insecure…which is understandable.
      I mean imagine being locked away for how many years and then your released with a few quid back into society.
      you perhaps lack basic skills and so getting yourself back into civil society won’t be easy.
      you got little money and perhaps no where to go.
      and yet your still human with the same basic needs.
      so what you gonna do?
      stand on a street corner begging or resort to what landed you in prison?
      according to Ken Clarke
      the latter tends to be chosen.
      and when it turns out a minority of Prison officers are corrupt,
      it makes it kind of difficult to back David Cameron’s proposal to give Prison governors more authority.
      because if the arrangement in 2006 was said to be institutionally corrupt (and remember this was years before DC’s reform Idea)
      why should the public believe that part of the solution is to give Prison governors more say over how prisons are run?
      if anything that would more than likely cause corruption to thrive even more.
      it is obvious that Prison has failed to punish reform and release.
      I believe that if the government stops penny pinching and puts money into helping ex convicts get educated and trained in order to help them find a job
      which pays them enough so that resorting to crime loses its appeal,
      that is the best way to deal with the revolving prison door syndrome.

  3. William says:

    ‘Scandalous failures’ prompt mass prison reform across England and Wales
    Justice Gap By Caislin Boyle 09/02/2016

    Although innocent I was convicted by our new Salem Witch Law in which a lone pointing finger attached to gossip and combined with a sexist and a prejudiced jury as in times of yore, is enough to convict many innocent men of sexual assault and so I spent 3½ years in prison. I am retired now and my employment history is that I have spent 50 years as IC in developing Private Enterprise control systems based upon carefully proposed Business Plans which were designed to fruitfully complete many new manufacturing factories and countless departments pursuing various ilk’s all conclusively controlled by the introduction of acceptable team work.

    There is a serious man management problem that I found in prisons which I originally thought are supposed to rehabilitate and recalibrate men back into society and so that they can become supporting healthy members of their community – I quickly understood that currently prisons are actually doing the opposite to this task which was quickly confirmed when I read that 80% of prisoners have been in prison before (56% reoffend within 12 months of their release) and my management acumen tells me that of the remaining 20% of remaining new inputs, 80% will return to prison . . Making a staggering 96% failure to rehabilitate rate, a statistic which is confirmed when it is known that the prisoner population increased by 98% in the last 9 years and is not stopping
    When I was trained for private entreprise “Scientific Management” in the middle 60’s, there were great concerns about the incorrect treatment of wage earners which was causing damaging strikes and sabotages, this being the normal reaction to “incorrect treatment”. I was also informed that you may do a 50 page “Business Plan” on how to successfully change a poorly organised company into a successful one but if you could not put the conceptual idea onto one page, for a Directors perusal – then you should not write the Business Plan. (When in prison I completed a many paged “Business Plan” on how to successfully run a prison whose name I changed from HMP into Her Majesties Rehabilitation Centres (HMRC) and if anyone would like a copy I will gladly send it to them) Here is the one page reason which causes the prison problem:-

    The probable reason for such a failure, caused by prisoners attacking society attacking society which returns the attacker to prison, it is best to understand the ancient 1850 explanation of ‘drapetomania’ and ‘dysesthesia’.
    The following is from the book “The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual” (DSM), this being a book that famously lists all kinds of mental disorders. It explains that the symptoms of “drapetomania” and “dysesthesia aethiopica” are the wanting of freedom and the need to run away from imposed conditions. The following terminology was invented by American doctors in the 1850s and it was given as the reasons why “prisoners” wanted to escape. Then Dr Samuel Cartwright defined drapetomania as a mental disorder for “prisoners” who wanted to run away. (He also claimed that this problem of was caused by giving “prisoners” too much authority and freedom, the cure being to beat the “wrong-doings” out of them and I think this was the culture adopted by prison for it also secures wages). I personally know that prisoners are not physically beaten, which is against the law, but they are constantly “bullied and harassed” into silence by the use of “erroneous opinions” (lies) that are used to apply fear and so control and suppress those who are not afraid of the prison, a system which is deemed to be “acceptable” by senior managers even when later proved not to be a truth at a later date.
    Dysesthesia aethiopica was defined as an aversion to prison labour and prisoners not doing what they are told to do with other symptoms being rascality and not taking care of property – the cure proposed being to force the “prisoners” to some hard work in the sunshine. Now if you replace the word “prisoner” with the word “slave”, you will have the correct perception of the above “mental disorders” as pursued by slave owners in the 1850’s. Simply put: a slave is someone who is governed by the “opinions” of “its” master and a slave is not subject to the laws of the General Public within the country in which “it” lives – this is our current imposed prison culture. The above method of control by “erroneous opinions”, means that you never need to apologise to your slave or to anyone – so punishment is automatically applied for a prison guards “opinion” is forcibly accepted as the truth. It is also a fact that false “opinions” can be given as evidence against prisoners who are seen as “slaves”, for corroborating evidence is not sought when convicting “slaves” for they are deemed not to be members of the general public but have been placed under the rules and opinions of their masters – whose efforts are to protect themselves from these “slaves”. (See HMP Governors letter dated 05/04/14 and sent to me which is stated that “staff were correct in confiscating the letter and for the procedures that followed” this being after the Prison Probation Ombudsman declared that it was illegal to withhold this type of letter from me and also PPO wished to see the confiscated letter but it disappeared and no record could be found as to where it went but the serious punishment inflicted upon me, as a prisoner, because of this letter – still stands and simply put, the truth is that the “confiscated” letter never existed and I have five such false implications officially laid against me – all eventually proven not to be true.

    Even more strange, read attached law, is that in 2010, slavery in this country (UK) was abolished so that Prisons and Probation Services are now acting illegally if they punish or control a prisoner by the use of uncorroborated “erroneous opinions”, as in the above cases and not the laws that legally govern the activities of the general public in which corroborating evidence is legally required.(or used to be but new laws are being instigated which do not require corroborating evidence in order to convict, as in Salem law and probably because of this statement “…it may be that innocent people are being convicted, but we ought to be more worried about the guilty who might get away.” Sir William Utting, former Chief Inspector of Social Services).
    Legally put only the courts have the right to lay down punishment upon a fellow citizen and banishment from one’s family, work, society, and community is the most serious non-physical punishment that can be inflicted upon a person and as is oft stated by the wise “it is not the remit of those who are responsible for incarceration, to add further punishment”. Indeed, how many British people do interested committee members know who could be falsely targeted and erroneously punished by a false opinion – without in some way – retaliating, sabotaging in some way – or as it is now being called “re-offending?”

    As a Tangent: In Russia they had a communist law called “political mania” which was classed as a disorder in others. So “Political Mania” was described as convincing others that there was a need for political change but in the 1960s and 70s the Russian people turned this psychological belief backwards with this previously supported “paranoia” being defined as a yearning for truth and justice. (Enter the new world). Whilst in China the symptoms of criminal illness, listed by China’s law makers, included the carrying of banners, shouting slogans, and expressing views on important domestic and international political matters.( It is now politically clear, that if Russia and China can change – then we can- but how- see Business Plan on Prison Reform).

    PRISON AND THE HUMAN RIGHTS ACT 2ND OCTOBER 2000. The Human Rights Act confirms that prisoners remain citizens during their period of imprisonment. It also states that they should be held in conditions which resemble those in outside society as far possible and must have their fundamental rights and freedoms respected by the Prison Service and that these rights should be upheld in the courts. It is further clear that Human Rights Acts should be seen as an official recognition in that human rights do not stop at the prison gate. Therefore the Statement of Purpose of a prison is to keep in custody those committed by the courts and by example, show those so imprisoned how to become law-abiding citizens and therefore lead useful lives when released from incarceration, this being whilst in custody and after release”….. I understand this to be a correct viewpoint and so built my Business Plan on Prison Reform accordingly.
    Yours sincerely – William

    Britain abolishes Slavery on 6th April 2010 (It is now time to abolish it in prisons also)
    Points on slavery According to The Second Book of General Ignorance, the section of the law in question is Section 71 of the British Coroners and Justice Act reads:
    71 Slavery, servitude and forced or compulsory labour
    (1) A person (D) commits an offence if—
    (a) D holds another person in slavery or servitude and the circumstances are such that D knows or ought to know that the person is so held, or
    (b) D requires another person to perform forced or compulsory labour and the circumstances are such that D knows or ought to know that the person is being required to perform such labour.

    (2) In subsection (1) the references to holding a person in slavery or servitude or requiring a person to perform forced or compulsory labour are to be construed in accordance with Article 4 of the Human Rights Convention (which prohibits a person from being held in slavery or servitude or being required to perform forced or compulsory labour).

    (3) A person guilty of an offence under this section is liable—
    (a) on summary conviction, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding the relevant period or a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum, or both;
    (b) on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 14 years or a fine, or both.

    (4) In this section— “Human Rights Convention” means the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms agreed by the Council of Europe at Rome on 4 November 1950; “the relevant period” means—
    (a) in relation to England and Wales, 12 months;
    (b) in relation to Northern Ireland, 6 months.

    • trevor says:

      Hi William,
      all I can say is wow!!!
      that must have taken quite a while to write!!!
      but its such a pity that for someone who is clearly passionate about what you believe in
      and would Probably have more success than many Justice Secretaries etc
      is overlooked in favor of Micheal Gove who is more than likely to make thing worse than better.
      I mean you have personal experience of prison and so your first hand experience would probably go some way to helping deal with the revolving prison door syndrome.
      you should send a letter to Micheal Gove William
      cause he needs someone like you
      to help draw up a better plan to deal with the growing problems inside and outside of prisons.

  4. Jenny Richards says:

    I notice Cameron’s speech doesn’t include one of the biggest economies he could make in English prisons, and that is to resolve the problem of the iniquitous number of elderly men serving long sentences for alleged historic sexual offences. Not only have an increasingly large number of them been convicted without any proof that they committed the ‘offence’, it has usually not been proved that the ‘offence’ ever happened in the first place!

    These old men are enduring an ongoing punishment that is much more than ‘loss of liberty’. They are separated from their families, and their state pensions (to which they have already paid compulsory contributions for decades) are stopped. They are usually unable to work (even if they could find any in prison) so they can’t afford the extortionate cost of phone calls to keep in touch with their wives, or the inflated cost of small ‘extras’ which can only be bought from the prison ‘canteen’. Additionally, the wrongly convicted who continue to maintain their innocence endure reduced privileges, such as fewer family visits.

    They suffer bullying, harsh conditions, substandard healthcare, poor hygiene, inadequate nutrition and loneliness. There is no social care so they are reliant on help from other prisoners if they have mobility problems (e.g. fetching meals), and there are no lifts if they find stairs difficult or are in a wheelchair.

    Prisons certainly have not been built with the elderly in mind, yet the over-60s is the fastest-growing age group in custody. Because of the long sentences routinely given to men who are already old, most will die in prison.

    Given the high cost of keeping each prisoner locked up, this is costing the country a fortune – and YOU are paying for it. Cameron didn’t even mention it. He is the one who should be ashamed, because he is the one who has the power to do something about it.

    • trevor says:

      Hi Jenny,
      Just want to say I agree with much of what you wrote.
      especially the part about the cost to the taxpayers to keep elderly prisoners locked up.
      but the thing is even if a person is elderly and they have been found guilty,
      the have to be punished because otherwise the public will start to think that there is a two tier system for young and elderly people.

      • Jenny Richards says:

        Yes, of course I do agree with punishing the guilty whoever they are, but what concerns me is the lack of humanity toward the elderly and infirm. Many of those old men are, as I said, incapable of looking after themselves and really should be in a care home. Many of them are nearing the end of their lives. It would be more humane to either build a ‘care home prison’ to enable those needing assistance to be kept in custody safely (and more economically) or to release them home under ‘house arrest’. After all, they aren’t likely to be running amok!

        • William says:

          Good comment on punishment …but it would be very interesting for me to know what you regard as “punishment”. This is an important question

          • Jenny Richards says:

            The punishment imposed by the court is Imprisonment, i.e. ‘loss of liberty’. Anything more than that, such as the indignities and financial penalties described in my original comment, are additional punishments imposed by the prison rather than by the law. It is important to remember that ‘offenders’ are sent to prison AS punishment, not FOR additional punishment at the whim of prison governors and for the entertainment of prison staff.

      • William says:

        Thank you Jenny for your reply is a truth which is completely ignored by Prison “officers” who bully, harass, victimise, and foully swear at those who are weaker than themselves. Then, when it is mentioned that this is not correct, these officials plant false evidence to seriously punish prisoners of that ilk. An example is that I have 15 points of personal evidence that that show how “erroneous opinions” are rampantly used to punish inmates, all of which are seriously supported by prison governors who live in fear of reprisals from their wards. An example is that I informed the Prison Ombudsmen that an “illegal” letter I was punished for sending did not exist. So they requested to see this “withheld” letter – but no trace of the letter or what happened to it could be found. So I then asked for the serious punishment inflicted upon me to be removed – I received a letter saying NO! The letter then added the words “Staff were correct in confiscating the letter and for the procedures they followed at the time” – this being a letter that was proved not to exist.
        The clearest way to explain these abusing conditions is to understand that prisoners are seen as “slaves”, which means that they are controlled by the “opinions” of their masters – the prison officers – and not the law of the land in which they live – and like slaves – when the fear is removed – they will attack the system that treats them so – which is called re offending – hence the “revolving prison door” syndrome. Am I right?

        • Jenny Richards says:

          Yes, you are absolutely right. I also agree with your separate comments to Trevor about how easy it is to wrongly convict elderly men (celebrity or not) of non-existent sexual offences. Very few people (ie only those affected by it) are aware that NO PROOF IS REQUIRED in these cases, and the accused is considered Guilty from the moment he is contacted by the police. I’ve tried to discuss this appalling state of affairs with both my previous and present MPs, but they both refused to correspond with me on this subject.

  5. William says:

    Hi Trevour I understand what you say but I think you are missing the point in that nearly ALL the massive influx of the many thousands of elderly men currently in our prisons are being convicted by a new law recently introduced on Sexual Assault – this law nicknamed the “Salem law”, now states that no corroborating evidence is required to convict a man. It is important to understand that all that is required to convict an elderly or any man of sexual assault and at any time in his life even 50 years back to his teenage years, is a pointing finger and gossip from his accuser – a prejudiced jury does the rest just at it did in those days of the Salam witch trials. Simply put all that is required to convict a man is gossip and a pointing finger that is attached to no evidence whatsoever plus the motivating fact that the accuser can gain compensation from the accused of £10,000 to £50,000 and if not successful, which statistics prove is very unusual, the accuser just walks way back to being unknown – Is that sexism? (I further understand that all these celebrities are being pursued by accusers aroused by no win no fee solicitors who can charge the defendant £58,648 for any 30 minute undefended compensation hearing against him – and that is also known fact).

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