Prison Reform: the Prison and Courts Bill 2017
The Prison and Courts Bill 2017 is a major piece of proposed legislation which aims to give effect to major reforms of both the prison service and the work of courts and tribunals.
The note deals with the first item – reform of the prison service.
The main policy objectives for prison reform were set out in the White Paper Prison Safety and Reform which was published in November 2016 and noted in this blog on 23 November 2016.
A good number of the proposed reforms do not actually require new legislation. They can be achieved by changes to the ways in which prisons are run, or by changes to the Prison Rules. But key changes do require legislation. These are dealt with in Part 1 of the new Bill.
The major changes may be set out as follows:
- The Bill will create a statutory purpose of prisons and updates the existing duties of the Secretary of State in relation to prisons (amending those created in the Prison Act 1952 (“the 1952 Act” ))
The Bill provides that “in giving effect to sentences or orders of imprisonment or detentionimposed by courts, prisons must aim to—
(a) protect the public,
(b) reform and rehabilitate offenders,
(c) prepare prisoners for life outside prison, and
(d) maintain an environment that is safe and secure.”
- It also imposes a duty on the Secretary of State to make an Annual Report to Parliament on the work of the prison service, measured against the criteria set out in the Bill.
- It creates Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons, comprising Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Prisons (an existing statutory office) and staff who carry out functions on the Chief Inspector’s behalf, places additional reporting requirements on the Chief Inspector in relation to prisons, and provides powers of entry and access to information to facilitate the exercise of the Chief Inspector’s statutory inspection functions in relation to prisons.
- It establishes the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman (“PPO”) – currently a non-statutory appointment – as a statutory office, and provides the Secretary of State with the powers to add its remit.
- In relation to prison security, the Bill will enable public communication providers (“PCPs”) – for example, mobile phone network operators – to be authorised to interfere with wireless telegraphy to disrupt the use of unlawful mobile phones in custody.
- It also makes provision for the testing of prisoners for psychoactive substances (as defined in the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016) within prisons.
For further detail about this Bill and links to relevant material, go to https://www.gov.uk/government/news/prisons-and-courts-bill-what-it-means-for-you