Wednesday, May 18, 2016

STATEMENT ON QUEEN'S SPEECH: Are Cameron's Prison Reforms a Revolution?

Today's Queen’s Speech is to announce “the biggest shake-up” of the prison service “since Victorian times”. What is happening? Governors of six prisons will have more control over budgets and daily routines. A grand total of just 5,000 offenders will be affected.

This is really about two things. The first is a step towards making prisons more like academies. Prison governors will have control over budgets like school headteachers.

The second is that prisons can earn an income – like from the work by prisoners. Expect to hear nothing about the potential pressure on low skilled labourers in areas near these prisons.

These plans say little about what will happen in prisons, only who has more budgetary freedom. And this is all a long way from addressing the problems of overcriminalization – and overcrowding.

The best prison reform is to improve criminal justice so prisons are needed less. These reforms may do nothing to stem the tide of offenders entering our prison system. Prison governors may have budgetary freedom for their use within a prison's four walls, but they have no freedom over deciding who should there or for how long. And what will they do? When we know that, we'll know whether this was a revolution in the making -- or a government spin to deflect attention from an exhausting EU Referendum campaign...

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