Pact (the Prison Advice and Care Trust) today welcomed a new report on prison safety and reform from the Centre for Social Justice, describing it as an important and insightful contribution to the debate. We recognize the analysis of a prison system which is in a ‘terrible state’ and which is in need of serious and strategic political attention and government investment to get ‘back on its feet’.

Pact, which delivers rehabilitation, resettlement and family services in nearly 70 prisons across England and Wales, and provides services in courts and in the community, specifically welcomed and highlighted a number of the report’s 59 recommendations.

Pact questions a few of the recommendations, including the recommendation that prison Governors be required to wear uniforms, as being less useful, and have offered to support the new Prisons Minister following the departure of Rory Stewart to the cabinet.

As a charity whose workers are inside prisons, in courts, supporting people through the prison gate and supporting prisoners’ children and families, we know better than most the vital importance of good order and control as the basis for the safety of officers, prisoners, workers and a rehabilitative regime. We receive dozens of calls every month from frightened mothers and other family members who fear for the safety of their sons and relatives in prison.

In order to achieve safe prisons, we wholeheartedly endorse the report’s recommendation that ‘minimum safe staffing levels in all areas of each prison be established and given legal status to focus importance of maintaining effective regime’ (recommendation 49, p.59). Pact agrees with the Centre for Social Justice that ‘Government must recognize that restoring control, order and hope to our prisons is a matter of critical national importance’ and that ‘the Government’s Spending Review should recognize the particular vulnerability of prisons and the need to adequately resource them.  The Government’s Spending Review should not shy away from the potential need for a total injection of £2 Billion.

There are a number of important recommendations in the report with which we are in warm agreement, but as front line practitioners, we would particularly like to encourage the Government to focus on the chapters on ‘Strengthening Families and Relationships’ (ch 7), ‘Work-Ready Offenders’ and some key evidence-based recommendations.

We know that if we are to seriously tackle the scourge of re-offending by people who continue to offend and cause harm in our communities after release from prison, then we need Government to take prisons much more seriously. People in prison need to feel safe, to live in a drug-free environment, and to be well-occupied in a decent regime which will reduce their appetite for drugs or violence. Importantly, the report re-states the vital importance of maintaining positive family ties and the significance of pro-social relationships. Prisoners need the realistic hope of a job, a family, and a home on release, and for many, having a positive family relationship is the most important building block for these outcomes. This report has a range of serious recommendations that we hope the Prime Minister, Treasury, and the Ministry of Justice will pay attention to.

Andy Keen-Downs.

Pact was delighted to see that the report recommends that the Government follows through the recommendation from Lord Farmer’s report into what works to reduce re-offending and inter-generational offending, and to see that the charity’s new ‘Routes2Change’ partnership programme with HMP Brixton has been highlighted.

Commenting on the departure of Prisons Minister Rory Stewart, a spokesperson commented:

As a charity, we have been working to support people to make a fresh start after prison and to support their families for 120 years, and so whilst we are disappointed that yet another Prisons Minister has gone out of the revolving doors of the Ministry of Justice, our determination to make a difference is undimmed. We will welcome the opportunity to support the new Minister in their important work, and will continue to work in partnership with HMPPS, other charities, faith communities and the public and private sector, to reduce re-offending, support children and families, and to keep prisoners safe.

For more information:

Louise Potter

Communications Manager

[email protected]

www.prisonadvice.org.uk