Archbishop To Address Jails Crisis

The Archbishop of Canterbury is due to deliver the Prison Reform Trust’s annual lecture as the debate continues over the crisis surrounding the UK’s prison system.

Dr Rowan Williams’ speech, to an 800-strong audience at Westminster Central Hall in London, comes after a torrid week for Home Secretary John Reid over the prisons issue.

Mr Reid has faced a rebellion from judges over pleas to imprison only the most dangerous and persistent criminals when sentencing, to tackle the overcrowding crisis in jails.

Dr Williams will give his talk entitled “Criminal Justice: Building Responsibility”, and then take questions at the event.

Juliet Lyon, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said: “At a time of crisis in our overcrowded jails, it will be very helpful to hear about the moral principles which underlie a responsible use of imprisonment.

“Thinking about ways to resolve conflict and to find long-term solutions will be a welcome relief from panic measures which see no further than storage or containment.”

The talk marks the 25th anniversary of the Prison Reform Trust.

The trust was founded in 1982 to raise public awareness about conditions in prisons and the increasing use of incarceration, when the prison population stood at 43,707.

Jails in England and Wales are now at bursting point, with about 80,000 inmates.

Hundreds are being housed overnight in police stations and court cells because there is no room in prisons, while Mr Reid is having to employ prefab units and an RAF base and negotiate to purchase prison ships to cope with the overcrowding.