Home Affairs Committee Press Notice

Session 2005-06 / PN No. 16


The Home Affairs Committee's report on Rehabilitation of Prisoners will be debated in Westminster Hall on Thursday 17 November, from 2.30 to 5.30 pm.

The Committee's report was published on 7 January (First Report of Session 2004-05, House of Commons Paper No. 193-I). The Government's reply was published as a command paper on 21 March (Cm 6486).

The debate is open to the public.

The report's main conclusions were as follows:

The basic policy framework for rehabilitating offenders is now largely in place because of reforms to sentencing, the development of alternatives to prison and the establishment of the National Offender Management System. However, implementation has been patchy.

Despite a welcome decrease in re-offending rates, the scale of the overcrowding problem is massive and the Government's optimistic assessment that by 2009 the prison population will neatly match prison capacity rests on some questionable assumptions. Overcrowding should not be used as an excuse for ignoring the issue of rehabilitation.

It is indefensible that the Prison Service cannot find enough work or purposeful activity for prisoners. There should be a radical transformation of the prison regime to ensure prisoners do 'real' work on a conventional 9 to 5 basis and have greater access to day release for work and education. There must be a much stronger drive to get ex-offenders into work in a bid to reduce re-offending and prison over-crowding. A structured approach to training and prison work is needed based on industry standards, developed with the help of private firms and local communities.

Overcrowding is also leading to a constant churn of prisoners through the system and high levels of transfers between prisons which are hampering rehabilitation programmes. More needs to be done to minimise these transfers.

Other points are:

•the current system of prison mental health care provision is failing;
•all prisoners should be subject to mandatory drug testing on admission to prison;
•there are too few places on prison drug treatment programmes;
•a radical re-think about the treatment of short-term prisoners is urgently required;
•provision for vulnerable groups such as women prisoners, young prisoners, and prisoners from minority ethic communities is seriously inadequate.

Media Enquiries:
Jessica Bridges Palmer, Tel 020 7219 0718, email: bridgespalmerj@parliament.uk 
Specific Committee Information:  Tel 020 7219 3276, email: homeaffcom@parliament.uk
Committee Website: http://www.parliament.uk/homeaffairscom
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NOTE FOR EDITORS: The Committee was nominated on 13 July 2005. Its terms of reference are to examine the expenditure, administration and policy of the Home Office and its associated public bodies; and the administration and expenditure of the Attorney General's Office, the Treasury Solicitor's Department, the Crown Prosecution Service and the Serious Fraud Office (but excluding individual cases and appointments and advice given within government by Law Officers). The Members are:

Rt Hon John Denham (Chairman) (Lab) (Southampton Itchen)
Mr Richard Benyon (Con) (Newbury)
Mr Jeremy Browne (Lib Dem) (Taunton)
Colin Burgon (Lab) (Elmet)
Mr James Clappison (Con) (Hertsmere)
Mrs Ann Cryer (Lab) (Keighley)
Mrs Janet Dean (Lab) (Burton)
Nick Harvey (Lib Dem) (North Devon)
Nick Herbert (Con) (Arundel and South Downs)
Mr Shahid Malik (Lab) (Dewsbury)
Steve McCabe (Lab) (Birmingham Hall Green)
Gwyn Prosser (Lab) (Dover)
Mr Gary Streeter (Con) (South West Devon)
Mr David Winnick (Lab) (Walsall North)