Posts Tagged ‘prisons’
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
One of the most intractable issues in the criminal justice system is enabling prisons do more to try to draw offenders away from a life of crime and to become more productive and engaged citizens.
In the Queen’s Speech, delivered on 18 May 2016, the announcement of a new Prisons Bill was made. The details are not yet available but at the heart of the reforms are proposals to significantly improve educational opportunities for inmates – and to give Prison Governors more autonomy over how they run their prisons.
Accompanying the text of the Queen’s speech was an announcement that in the short-term 6 pilot ‘trailblazer’ reform prisons would be established to test the effectiveness of new approaches. The intention is that 5000 prisoners should be in the reform prisons by the end of 2016.
The importance of education of prisoners was emphasise in a review, published at the same time by Dame Sally Coates.
For further (preliminary) information on reform prisons see https://www.gov.uk/government/news/biggest-shake-up-of-prison-system-announced-as-part-of-queens-speech
The Coates report can be found at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/unlocking-potential-a-review-of-education-in-prison
The big challenge, noted by many commentators, is how such reforms can be made effective given the large numbers of people currently detained in prison. Many think that it will be essential for numbers in jail to be reduced if those who would really benefit from the reform proposals are to be helped.