Truss to launch white paper on prison reforms
Protection of prison officers paramount for Lord Chancellor who looks to build on Michael Gove's plans
The Ministry of Justice is to publish a blueprint for the 'biggest overhaul of our prisons in a generation', the justice secretary, Elizabeth Truss, has announced.
Speaking at the Conservative Party Conference, the Lord Chancellor pledged to invest £1.3bn in new prisons and £14m towards the recruitment of over 400 new staff.
One of Truss' main priorities will be to cut reoffending. She claimed that the cycle of prison, release, re-offending and prison again, is costing taxpayers' £15bn a year '“ £1.7m every single hour of every day.
'Almost half of prisoners will re-offend within the first 12 months of release,' said Truss. 'More than half can't read or write to a basic standard, half have mental health problems, and nearly two thirds of women offenders are victims of abuse.'
To prevent re-offending, the justice secretary is planning to give governors greater control over their budgets to bring in education and employment schemes and 'give every prisoner a dedicated officer to support them as they quit drugs, get back into learning'.
'We are going to make sure offenders come out of prison better able to find work, better able to support their families and ready to turn their lives around.'
The reforms will be legislated for early next year.
Frances Crook, chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, welcomed the concentration on prison safety. 'The focus has to be on reducing the number of people in prison, because this emphasis on safety will not lead to improvements if there are too many prisoners in the system.'
Truss also pledged to crackdown on violence against prison officers '“ exacerbated by the increase of psychoactive drug abuse '“ which have seen 5,423 attacks on prison officers in the last year (almost 15 a day).
Truss also announced a new MoJ campaign to increase the number of former armed forces personnel becoming prison officers. She hopes this will instil discipline in prisons.
Truss said she was 'proud' to be appointed justice secretary in charge of the 'most far-reaching reforms of our prisons in a generation' and pledged to build on the 'great work of my predecessor Michael Gove'. She added: 'I am under no illusion about the scale of the challenge or the time it will take time to deliver reform.'
The Lord Chancellor will be aided by new prisons minister Sam Gymiah, the former childcare and education minister, and Dr Phillip Lee who brings experience of working on mental health, youth offending, and drug issues.
Matthew Rogers is a legal reporter at Solicitors Journal