- Created: Wednesday, 07 December 2016 16:20
- Written by Nicki Jameson
On 3 November, against a backdrop of increasingly dramatic headlines about a prison system in crisis, the Ministry of Justice published its White Paper, Prison Safety and Reform, which sets out the Conservative government’s plans for reshaping the prison system. The White Paper, the precursor to the Prison Reform Bill promised by former Justice Minister Michael Gove and now being managed by his successor Liz Truss, had been in the pipeline since the Queen’s Speech on 18 May but was delayed by Brexit and the resulting Cabinet reshuffle. Its publication therefore took place at a moment just weeks after a particularly violent incident in Pentonville prison in which three prisoners were stabbed, one fatally, and days before a ‘riot’ at Bedford prison. Nicki Jameson reports.
A further week later Pentonville was on the front pages again as two prisoners made a daring escape over the wall. Then, on 16 November, members of the Prison Officers Association (POA), who are legally banned from striking, staged an unofficial walk-out in protest against staff shortages and fear of violence against its members. Although prison officer numbers have genuinely been cut in the recent period, the POA is simply repeating the same refrain it has uttered since its inception. Its suggested solution to the ‘crisis’ is not that prisoners should have access to more education, rehabilitation etc to divert them from violence against one another or themselves, but that they should be locked up for even longer each day and allowed even fewer opportunities to leave their cells and associate with one another.