Government response published
Ministers need a clear plan of action to tackle the problem of rising prison populations and the health and safety of prisoners.
The Justice Committee welcomes the Government’s agreement with the issues raised in its Prison Population 2022: planning for the future report, but says ministers have failed to commit to a sufficient plan of action to effectively tackle the crisis faced.
In April, the Committee concluded, at the end of an 18-month inquiry, that the Government’s current approach to prisons was inefficient, ineffective and unsustainable in the medium or long-term.
Among a range of recommendations, it set out why there should be a presumption against sentences of six months or lower and argued that the Ministry of Justice needs to focus on ensuring safety and decency in prisons is maintained, as well as improving rehabilitation of offenders when they leave prison.
The Government Response agrees with the premise of many of the Committee’s recommendations but offers little in terms of action in addition to what has already been announced.
The Government had already acknowledged that there is a strong case for abolishing short sentences. Although it says it is ‘exploring options’, it does not state what these options are or specify a timescale.
Prisons remain overcrowded and unsafe, as a result rehabilitative programmes are failing
Chair of the Justice Committee, Bob Neill MP, said:
“Back in April we criticised the MoJ’s crisis management approach to running prisons and the amount of money that has been wasted in trying to deal with it.
Prisons remain overcrowded and unsafe and as a result rehabilitative programmes are failing.
Our report has clearly got ministers thinking about the challenges that must be overcome, but they have not yet clearly set out an overall strategy or timeframe for action.
Many of the specific responses to recommendations, including on short sentences, retention of prison staff and the need for a long-term prison estates strategy, are vague.
I will be writing to the Minister and taking up some issues during our prison governance inquiry.
There is more to be done to ensure we have the transparency needed to have a proper debate about the role prison should play.
We will continue to press for investment in rehabilitation services that work, and better access to support and opportunities for offenders which would reduce repeat imprisonment, alleviate pressures on jails and save public money.
This should be happening now, not at some unspecified point in the future.”