Ex-Jails Boss Slams ‘Flawed’ Policy

A former prisons chief has launched a scathing attack on the Government over the prison overcrowding crisis. Lord Ramsbotham writes in the Independent that the Government’s reforms of the prison service are “deeply flawed” and that it needs to rethink its long-term strategy.

The number of prisoners in England and Wales topped 80,000 for the first time in history on Wednesday.

Lord Ramsbotham said: “There are no short-term palliatives to the nonsense the Government’s approach has created in the past nine years, but unless it recognises its long-term thinking and planning is deeply flawed, and the situation is bound to get worse before any palliative can be introduced, there can be no satisfactory solution.”

The peer, who was chief inspector of prisons from 1995 to 2001, outlined a series of proposals which he said would provide a platform for improving the prison service.

These included a reorganisation into regional clusters of prisons, so “no prisoner, with the exception of those requiring high-security conditions, is held too far from home”.

He added that existing Area Criminal Justice Boards should be made responsible for ensuring that what happened in prisons in their area was related to local conditions, such as in the case of job training.

He also suggested that population management should be delegated to regions so that both prison and probation services are responsible for deciding who moved where, for what and when.

On Wednesday there were 79,908 inmates in jails and a further 152 being held in police stations under the Government’s emergency plans, making a grand total of 80,060.

Ironically, the landmark came on the day Home Secretary John Reid staged a summit with leading experts in a bid to find a solution to the prisons crisis.