Cameron announces reform of prison system

Prime Minister David Cameron has announced plans to overhaul the UK’s prison systems, including the construction of six new ‘reform prisons’.

Cameron is expected to denounce the ‘scandalous failure’ of the prisons sector before outlining new measures to create a modern, more effective and ‘truly twenty-first century prison’ system. The new plans will include the creation of six new ‘reform prisons’ with full autonomy over how they operate and spend funding and also a transformed approach to prison education, enabling reform prison governors full responsibility.

The new scheme will see six governors enrolled in overseeing how prisons manage their annual £130 million budget and which education services are used.

Cameron will say: “I strongly believe that we must offer chances to change; that for those trying hard to turn themselves around, we should offer hope; that in a compassionate country, we should help those who’ve made mistakes to find their way back onto the right path.

“In short: we need a prison system that doesn’t see prisoners as simply liabilities to be managed, but instead as potential assets to be harnessed.”

He cited: “46 per cent of all prisoners will re-offend within a year of release. 60 per cent of short-sentenced prisoners will reoffend within the same period. And current levels of prison violence, drug-taking and self-harm should shame us all.

“In a typical week, there will be almost 600 incidents of self-harm; at least one suicide; and 350 assaults, including 90 on staff.

“I am convinced that with the right agenda, we can be world leaders in change just like we have been in welfare, just like in education we can demonstrate that with the right reforms, we can make a lasting difference to people in our society.”

Frances Crook, chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: "Prisons are currently violent and overcrowded. As such, they fail everyone: victims, the public, staff and prisoners themselves. Prison reform, however, is the tip of the iceberg. We need action now to tackle sentence inflation and the profligate use of prison. Then the Prime Minister's vision can become a reality."