Prison Governance Contents

1An enduring crisis in our prisons and the need for leadership

The state of our prison system

5.Our Report Prison Population 2022 identified significant challenges facing prisons in England and Wales and concluded that the system faces an enduring crisis in safety and decency.

Safety in Prisons

6.The prison system faces significant challenges, and violence in prisons continues to be at a record high.1 The Ministry’s quarterly statistics on safety in custody, the latest of which are for the 12 months to March 2019, show that there were:

Safety statistics published in April 2019 had shown previous improvement in some areas: for October to December 2018, assaults decreased by 11% when compared to the previous quarter, for example.2 However, for the three months to March 2019, the number of assaults rose again, by 4%.3

7.Self-harm and deaths in custody are of special concern. In all, 309 people died in prison custody in the 12 months to June 2019, only two fewer than in the year before. Of those deaths, 86 were self-inflicted, up from 81 the previous year. Some 57,968 incidents of self-harm were reported (a rate of 699 per 1,000 prisoners), up 24% on the previous year. The number of individuals self-harming increased by 6% to 12,539. Women are also at much greater risk of self-harm, with a rate of 2,828 incidents per 1,000 prisoners in female prison establishments compared with a rate of 569 incidents per 1,000 prisoners in male establishments.

8.A number of our witnesses expressed concern about a lack of follow-up of recommendations following a death in custody. Peter Clarke, Chief Inspector of Prisons, told us that “In one third of the prisons we inspect, we find that the responses to Prisons and Probation Ombudsman recommendations following deaths are not being properly implemented. That must be a corporate responsibility.”4 INQUEST described the Ministerial Board on Deaths in Custody as an information exchange forum and called for a national oversight mechanism to monitor deaths in custody and the implementation of recommendations from post-death investigations.5 The then Prisons Minister, now Secretary of State for Justice, rt hon Robert Buckland QC MP, was clear that one death was too many and every suicide a failure of the system.6

Figure 1: Change in the number of assaults and self-harm incidents between 2010 and 2019

Source: Ministry of Justice, Safety in Custody Statistics, England and Wales: Deaths in Prison Custody to June 2019 Assaults and Self-harm to March 2019, 25 July 2019

The condition of prisons and overcrowding

9.Much of the prison infrastructure dates to the Victorian era and is in a state of disrepair. The Ministry estimates that the current size of the maintenance backlog is £900 million. This has increased significantly in the last 12 months—we heard in August 2018 that the then pipeline of major maintenance work was estimated at £716 million.7 A number of witnesses emphasised the condition of the estate as a significant inhibiting factor to improving prisons. Dame Anne Owers, National Chair of the Independent Monitoring Boards (IMBs) set out the problem:

There is a long history of insufficient preventive maintenance in prisons, not just in our Victorian prisons but in some of the prisons built more recently. That was exacerbated by the new maintenance contracts that did not allow for preventive work, or all the repair work that is needed. The consequence of that has been, as you say, conditions that are in some cases inhumane and in some cases unsafe.8

Table 1 sets out some of the conditions individual IMBs have reported. Box 1 includes photos from recent HM Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP) and IMB reports, which demonstrate the conditions prisoners and staff live and work in.

Table 1: Examples of findings from Independent Monitoring Board reports


IMB Finding


Legionella infection being investigated by Health and Safety Executive (one prisoner died) [the board has recorded some improvements since], lack of resolution of repairs and maintenance results in ‘unacceptable living and working conditions’; some heating failures; welded windows making cells in one wing too hot; long delays repairing kitchen equipment and washing machines.


Standard of accommodation ‘unacceptable’; some cells have only a sheet separating the toilet; cells regularly out of use; showers and phones frequently out of order; hot water erratic; two showers replaced in the previous year at cost of £150k and already floors cracked, fans ineffective and water repellent membrane failed.


Toilet doors missing on one wing: some toilets not flushing, with waste and excrement on the floor; urinals blocked and overflowing when flushed so that prisoners were using buckets to flush toilets. Funding provided had still not resulted in any repairs seven months later.


Holes in walls and roofs; floors damaged; showers in poor condition; frequent heating breakdown in several units and in kitchen in winter; laundry failings so some prisoners had no kit changes for two weeks.

Source: Independent Monitoring Boards, IMB National Annual Report 2017/18, 5 June 2019, page 49–50

Box 1: Examples of conditions in HMP Bristol, HMP Birmingham and HMP Winchester

Source: Photos from top left clockwise: Litter accumulated at the back of a wing, HMP Bristol; Prisoners block their sink panels to prevent the ingress of cockroaches, HMP Bristol; A sheet separating prisoners’ cell from a toilet, HMP Winchester; and Smashed windows with jagged glass, HMP Birmingham. Photos are taken from the HMIP reports for HMP Bristol (May- June 2019) and HMP Birmingham (July- August 2018), and the IMB report for HMP Winchester (2017-18). Photos are representative of the time they were taken and work has since been undertaken at these prisons.

10.The Ministry recognises the challenge it faces. The Secretary of State for Justice emphasised the need to do better with regard to repair and future capital spend.9 Jo Farrar described it as one of her biggest challenges.10

11.As prisons fall into further disrepair, they continue to be overcrowded. The total prison population as at 31 August 2019 was 82,904, up slightly from 82,839 twelve months previously.11 In the year to March 2019, 22.5% of prisoners were held in crowded prisons.12 The prison population is projected to decrease in the next two years, to 81,000 by April 2021, before rising again to 82,000 by March 2024.13 These estimates are, however, predicated on assumptions that court demand remains at recent lower levels, which may require revision following the Ministry’s review of sentencing policy.14

12.A large number of our witnesses emphasised overcrowding.15 Frances Crook, Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, told us that “prisons cannot achieve what they are expected to achieve when there are so many people in them… you have to get the number of prisoners down.”16 NPC, a charity looking at the effectiveness of the voluntary sector, was of the view that “the criminal justice system is over-stretched and under-resourced, creaking under the weight of overcrowding.”17 There has also been international criticism of overcrowding; the United Nations Committee against Torture recommend that the Government “continue its efforts to improve conditions of detention and alleviate overcrowding of penitentiary institutions and other detention facilities, including through the application of non-custodial measures.”18

Increasingly complex prisoners and the need to focus on rehabilitation

13.The prison population is increasingly difficult, with many vulnerable individuals who have specific and complex needs. The Police and Crime Commissioner for Devon and Cornwall told us: “The complex needs of the current prison population and the multiple and complex needs associated with prisoners makes their management as individuals and the resulting population challenging.”19 Specific problems facing the Prison Service include:

14.Our report Prison Population 2022 identified a lack of focus on rehabilitation. We concluded that the Ministry needed a dual approach to safety and decency, as well as improving rehabilitation, with the ultimate aim of reducing reoffending.23 Many witnesses reflected the view that there is a need to continue to invest in rehabilitation and focus on reducing reoffending.24

15.Our witnesses identified purposeful activity as requiring additional attention. Peter Clarke emphasised the need for good-quality activity places, noting a shortfall across the prison estate and that the Inspectorate “frequently find large numbers of prisoners unemployed with nothing to do.”25 He expressed concern that more progress was not being made, giving the example of HMP High Down:

there were 536 unemployed prisoners and a shortfall in activity places. We made a recommendation that there should be enough activity places for everybody in the prison. The recommendation was only partly agreed, on the basis that there were not the resources available to create that number of purposeful activity places. We also made a recommendation that every prisoner should have at least 10 hours out of cell. That was rejected on the basis that there were not enough activity places, so there is a circularity of despair.26

16.Dame Anne Owers emphasised the link between safety and purposeful activity, saying that “what prisons depend on is dynamic security, not just the physical bits. It is about the relationship between safety, staff-prisoner relationships and activities. That sort of triangle keeps safe places that are not inherently safe.”27 The Secretary of State agreed there was a link between purposeful activity and a reduction in grievance, noting that this in turns makes prisons safer places.28

17.We warmly welcome the link the Secretary of State has made between safety and purposeful activity. There must be greater investment in purposeful activity to reduce the estimated £18 billion cost of reoffending and improve safety in prisons. We repeat the call made in our report Prison Population 2022 for a dual focus on safety and rehabilitative activity and we look forward to further announcements from the Secretary of State setting out how he will improve purposeful activity in prisons.

The Government’s strategy for addressing the challenges facing the prison system

The 2016 White Paper

18.The White Paper, Prison Safety and Reform, published in November 2016, was the last significant articulation of the Government’s approach to managing the prison system. Announcing publication, the then Secretary of State for Justice, rt hon. Liz Truss MP, said the Government’s plans represented “a major overhaul of the system—the biggest for a generation.”29

19.The White Paper set out a wide range of proposals, included in more detail in box 2. The Justice Committee examined some of these plans in its Reports Prison Reform: Governor empowerment and prison performance and Prison Reform: Part 1 of the Prisons and Court Reform Bill. The White Paper’s proposals have been implemented to varying degrees since 2016 by successive Secretaries of State for Justice. The commitment to legislate to create a statutory purpose for the prison system failed to materialise following the fall of the Prison and Courts Reform Bill, before the 2017 general election. However, the commitment to give every prisoner a dedicated officer who can engage with them one-to-one is being rolled out through the Offender Management in Custody (OMiC) model, which our witnesses broadly saw as a positive change.30

Box 2: Summary of the key proposals in the Government’s 2016 White Paper Prison Safety and Reform

The key proposals set out in the White Paper include:

  • greater autonomy for governors, including the ability to design their regime to meet local delivery needs and target training and work in prisons to match the local labour market;
  • a new commissioning system where the Secretary of State directly commissioned prisons and held performance agreements with prison governors;
  • new performance measures for all prisons with annual published league tables;
  • legislation to create a statutory purpose for prisons;
  • investment in an additional 2,500 prison officers, enabling prisoners to have more one-to-one support;
  • developing a capability strategy to support governors and senior managers to take on new responsibilities, including a bespoke prison leadership programme; and
  • investment of £1.3 billion to build up to 10,000 new adult prisons places, as well as to build and open five new community prisons for women.

Source: Ministry of Justice, Prison Safety and Reform, Cm 9350, November 2016

20.The White Paper continues to underpin much of the Ministry’s prisons policy. The Secretary of State for Justice told us that it “informs the way in which we want to approach particular issues that are affecting not just the safety of prisoners but the safety of staff.”31 However, a number of our witnesses questioned the extent to which the White Paper has delivered positive and continuing reform. The Prison Governors’ Association is “firmly of the belief that Prison Safety & Reform has in the main been a damp squib. The White Paper promised much change for the better, but the reality is that for the Governor running their prison, the promised reform has been minimal.”32

21.Witnesses also queried the extent to which the White Paper continues to provide strategic direction for the Prison Service. Sue McAllister, the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman for England and Wales, was “not very clear on the extent to which the 2016 white paper has remained anyone’s lodestar.”33 Clinks noted that “the momentum behind the original reform prisons has all but disappeared and creating change on a wider scale across the prison estate has been hampered by political turbulence, a lack of strategic oversight, and a lack of resource to address the growing prison population and ageing infrastructure.”34

The Ministry’s Single Departmental Plan

22.All departments are required to produce a Single Departmental Plan setting out objectives and how they will achieve them. The Ministry’s plan sets the following objectives in relation to prisons for 2019–2022:35

The development of specific strategies since the 2016 White Paper

23.Since publication of the 2016 White Paper, the Ministry has published a number of strategies relating to specific aspects of prison life, and these have formed a key part of its prison reform agenda. They include the Female Offender Strategy, the Education and Employment Strategy and the Drugs Strategy. Explaining the rationale for these strategies, Jo Farrar said:

The drug strategy was identified as a priority and it has been a priority for us. We brought that together, because it is one of the factors that we need to focus on in order to improve safety and security… We are providing an overall framework, and the drug strategy is a good example where we allow governors certain freedoms to tailor things to the needs of their prison. For education, there is a similar strategy and a similar approach.36

Box 3: Female Offender Strategy

Launched in June 2018, the Female Offender Strategy included a new programme of work designed to improve outcomes for female offenders, including commitments to:

  • invest £5 million of cross-Government funding over two years in community provision for women;
  • work with local and national partners to develop a pilot for ‘residential women’s centres’ in at least five sites across England and Wales; and
  • to reducing the number of women serving short custodial sentences.

Source: Ministry of Justice, Female Offender Strategy, Cm 9642, June 2018

Box 4: The Education and Employment Strategy

The Ministry published its Education and Employment Strategy in prisons in 2018. This set a number of areas of focus:

  • establish consistency and minimum standards in a few key areas across the prison estate;
  • empower governors to commission the education provision most likely to meet employers’ requirements and prisoners’ needs;
  • provide the right tools and support to governors to make best use of these powers; and
  • couple greater powers for governors with greater accountability for performance.

Source: Ministry of Justice, Education and Employment Strategy, Cm 9621, May 2018

Box 5: The Prison Drugs Strategy

In April 2019, the Ministry published its Prison Drugs Strategy, with the objective of reducing drugs misuse in prisons. The Ministry says that this will be achieved by:

  • restricting supply: minimising drugs entering the estate and disrupting the trade of drugs through technology, searching, intelligence;
  • reducing demand: ensuring there are incentives in place to support prisoners and constructive relationships with staff; and
  • building recovery: collaborating with health partners to ensure successful commissioning and delivery of substance misuse services.

Source: Ministry of Justice, Prison Drugs Strategy, April 2019

24.It remains unclear how the Ministry chooses which strategic challenges do and do not require a strategy and how these fit into an overarching framework. We called for strategies in a number of specific areas in our Report Prison Population 2022, including: older prisoners and the condition of the prison estate.

25.The Ministry has developed a model of operational delivery for older prisoners, setting out how services might best be delivered. Peter Clarke told us in November 2018 that he had been asked to join a steering group looking at older prisons and that he understood that the Ministry was looking to develop a specific strategy for that cohort.37 However, the then Prisons Minister, rt hon. Rory Stewart MP, told the Committee in January 2019 that the Ministry had not made any “commitment to produce a strategy for older offenders, as this is not necessarily the best way to address the issues involved. Instead, we are considering whether other approaches, such as mainstreaming older prisoner considerations into policy development work, might be more appropriate and effective.”38

Dr Sarah Bromley, National Medical Director, Health in Justice, Care UK, described the challenges faced in managing an ageing prison population, saying that “the fabric of the buildings does not lend itself to caring for people who are wheelchair-bound or have poor mobility. Social care is very patchy across the country, and how well social care is working has a big impact on health as well. For the frail elderly, particularly those with dementia, we are struggling to provide what they need to keep them safe and healthy.”39 We will return to this issue in a future inquiry.

26.The Ministry noted in its Response to Prison Population 2022 that it was “developing a long-term estate strategy which will also balance investment in the existing estate to ensure that accommodation is brought up to and maintained at a decent standard while also providing investment in new builds to create modern, purpose-built establishments, that improve rehabilitation and create safe and secure environments.”40 However, no timeframe for publishing such a strategy has been indicated. The Prison Estates Transformation Programme has been under way for several years following the 2015 Spending Review, but no specific strategy covering the programme has ever been published.

Challenges in developing strategy

27.The Ministry has published a number of individual strategies, as well as making money available for separate policy initiatives, particularly in relation to safety and decency, but a number of witnesses commented on an overall lack of strategic direction of the Prison Service, which many saw as an inhibiting factor in driving change.41 Clinks said that the “lack of strategic oversight and clear direction has led to an inconsistent approach taken by MoJ in relation to the development and implementation of a range of different strategies … As a result, the implementation of these various strategies has been siloed and inconsistent, limiting their potential impact and making them challenging to implement.”42 The Prison Reform Trust emphasised the increasing reliance of the Ministry on ad-hoc policy announcement, saying that “by our calculation there have been 278 separate ministerial policy promises about the prison system. Many of those 278 have been made on multiple occasions. But we have so far been unable to get a reply from the Ministry about how many have been delivered, or even which of them still represent government policy.”43

28.A number of witnesses emphasised the high turnover of ministers as having a significant effect on the strategic direction of the Prison Service, as well as the quality of its leadership.44 Since the beginning of the Coalition Government in 2010 there have been seven Secretaries of State for Justice and seven Prison Ministers. Professor Nick Hardwick, said:

Many of these [ministers] have had laudable policies–but each have been different and none of the incumbents have been in post long enough to ensure their policies come to fruition… This turnover has had a debilitating effect on the confidence of staff and others in the leadership of the system. Achieving improvement will require sustained commitment and prison staff will be understandably cautious about making a wholehearted commitment to a future Minister’s ideas if that Minister may be gone within a few months.45

The need for an overarching long-term strategy

29.In Prison Population 2022 we concluded that the Ministry needed to acknowledge the challenges it faces in managing the prison population and demonstrate that it has a long-term strategy to deal with them.46 We were unsatisfied with the Government’s Response to our Report and wrote to the then Secretary of State for Justice, rt hon David Gauke MP: “The current crisis in our prison system requires a clear plan of action to deal with the many challenges our prisons are currently facing. The Government’s Response to our Report ‘Prison Population 2022’ does not give the Committee confidence that such a plan exists.”47 He responded: “I am clear that what the prison system ideally needs is a long-term and multi-year plan not only to address the current challenges but also to put the whole system on a more sustainable footing. This is being developed in preparation for a future Spending Review and I hope to be able to tell you more about this in due course.”48 Mr Gauke, however, left office on 24 July 2019.

30.We welcome the previous Secretary of State’s commitment to producing a long-term and multi-year plan and recommend that the current Secretary of State honour it. The plan should set out clearly an overarching and integrated strategy to deal with the main challenges facing the prison system. Prisons policy has too long been made on an ad-hoc basis, with new policies announced via press notice and little explanation given as to how they fit into the overall strategic direction of the Prison Service. A clear, evidenced-based strategy is necessary to give governors the stability and confidence to make the changes necessary to improve prisons. This strategy should be produced by 31 March 2020.

The Government’s recent announcements on prisons

31.In August 2019 the Government made a series of policy and spending announcements relating to prisons. These included:

32.The Prime Minister ordered a review of sentencing for serious violent and sexual offenders in August 2019.51 In October 2019, the Government announced a move to abolish the current automatic half-way release for such offenders who receive standard fixed-term sentences. Instead they will be required to serve a minimum of two-thirds of their sentence in prison and subject to strict licence conditions on release.52 In relation to the Government’s proposed changes to sentencing, we are concerned that the announcement may over time result in a significantly increased prison population without any guarantees that the necessary infrastructure will be put in place to avoid further overcrowding of prisons. We recommend that the Ministry publishes the results of its sentencing review in full, including its evaluation of the proposed sentencing changes in the Sentencing Bill on the size of the prison population.

33.The 10,000 additional prison places are in addition to those completed under previous Government commitments to build up to 10,000 new prison places.53 The Ministry has confirmed that of the original 10,000 new places committed to, 3,566 will be built, with new prisons at Glen Parva and Wellingborough.54 The previous Government committed £1.3 billion as part of the 2015 Spending Review; as at the end of July 2019, around £250 million of the original planned investment had been spent.55 The Ministry separately agreed with HM Treasury that capital funding not utilised for building new prisons could be used to fund current spending. £235 million was switched in this way in 2017–18; a further £150 million in 2018–19.56

34.We welcome the additional and sorely needed investment the Government has announced for the prison system. Given the Governments’ poor track record in delivering promised new prison places, we recommend that the Ministry sets out further details of how and when it intends to use the £2.5 billion that has been committed to build 10,000 additional places and over what time period they will be built.

35.We are particularly concerned by the focus on creating additional places, rather than on replacing dilapidated and decrepit prisons in the current estate. The Ministry estimates it has a current backlog of maintenance work worth £900 million and attention must be given to the rest of the prison estate, which is falling into an ever-worse state of disrepair. We took comfort from the words of the Secretary of State for Justice and the Chief Executive of the HMPPS, who each acknowledged the significant challenge of managing the prison estate. However, we have still not seen the long-term estate strategy we were told was being developed by the Ministry of Justice. We recommend that the Ministry sets out the immediate steps it is taking to manage and reduce the backlog of maintenance and sets out a timetable to achieve this. We renew our call for a long-term estate strategy and request that the Ministry publishes this in response to this report.

The importance of leadership

36.Leadership is a key function of any organisation and we believe strongly that investing in the quality of leadership of our prisons can have a real impact on their performance. We said in our Report Prison Population 2022:

Prison governors are expected to implement several rehabilitative strategies at a time when they are beginning to benefit from a higher complement of staff and are seeking to focus on reversing the deep decline in safety. While we agree that it is right to focus on both decency and rehabilitation, governors have limited capacity, with prison population at current levels, to deal with the range of competing and challenging demands on their time.57

37.Successive Secretaries of State have agreed with us. Rt hon. David Gauke MP told the House, in a debate on prisons and probation, that leadership is an important factor in delivering well run prisons.58 The current Secretary of State told us that leadership was a key part of a governor’s role, emphasising that developing training for current and future governors was at the heart of the Government’s thinking.59

38.A number of witnesses emphasised the importance of leadership to delivering improvements in prisons. Peter Clarke, in his Annual Report, said that:

Some issues that have an adverse impact on prisoners are often outside the control of prison leaders, such as the availability of accommodation for those being released, or delays in transferring those suffering from mental illness to secure beds. However, there is much that is firmly within the control of those whose responsibility it is to lead and manage these complex establishments. It is as clear as day, and I see it for myself week in, week out as I join our inspection teams across England and Wales, that the variations in performance of apparently comparable jails is directly influenced by the quality of their leadership. Indeed, on occasions a decision as to whether to invoke the Urgent Notification Protocol has been influenced by my confidence in whether the prison leadership has the capacity and capability to drive improvement.60

Dame Anne Owers told us that she had seen examples of a well performing prison going into decline because a good governor had moved on.61 The Prison Officers Association argued that for prisons to improve there needed to be “Leadership from Government, leadership from HMPPS, leadership from Governors, leadership from managers and leadership by frontline staff. If any of these are missing or not as strong or reliable as they should be, an establishment will start to fail.”62

39.Some witnesses cautioned that good leadership alone will not improve prison performance. The Prisoner Learning Alliance cautioned that the “challenges arising from under resourcing and under staffing can only ever be slightly ameliorated by good management.”63 The Prison Reform Trust told us that:

it has always been true that determined local leadership with the right sort of support can improve the state of even the most problematic prisons, if only temporarily. But it is hard to think of any circumstance in which spending more on senior roles, and requiring ever more attention to be devoted to reporting on progress rather than actually making it, represents the best response to a crisis created overwhelmingly by the withdrawal of resources from the front line.64

The need for a sustainable funding settlement for prisons

40.We have heard strong calls for further investment in prisons; the Prison Governors Association said that “the fundamental issue facing HMPPS is a lack of investment.”65 It went on to say that funding made available in the last few years was inadequate and called for a root and branch review of all aspects of imprisonment, with adequate funding for the results. Philip Wheatley, former Director General of the Prison Service, emphasised the ongoing tension between the need for the Ministry of Justice to live within its means and the need to invest in the prison system. He warned that “Any pressure to deliver further cuts in prisons or an expectation that prisons can cope with cuts or inflexibility in the delivery of essential support services is likely to stall or reverse any signs of recovery in the performance in our prisons.”66

41.In September 2019, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, rt hon Sajid Javid MP, announced the results of a one-year Spending Review for the financial year 2020–21. The settlement for the Ministry of Justice included:

42.We have repeatedly called for a sustainable funding settlement for the prisons system, to improve safety and decency in prisons, as well as to focus on rehabilitation to reduce the estimated £18 billion annual cost of reoffending to the economy.67 The Secretary of State agreed that the Ministry could do with additional resource and emphasised the need to invest in the Prison Service to offset future costs. He said that “A lesson I have learned over the years is that a lack of investment in intervention at the right stage of rehabilitation leads to more reoffending, and more reoffending leads to more and longer terms of imprisonment.”68 He went gave the example of healthcare, where investment now in areas such as drugs in prisons might lead to a reduction in costs in the future.69

43.We welcome much needed additional funding for the Ministry of Justice and in particular for the prison system. We acknowledge that the recent Spending Review was intended to cover only one financial year but believe the condition of the prison system is such that a multi-year funding settlement is urgently required. Prisons should be safe and decent environments that rehabilitate offenders but this not currently the case. We have called for a long-term plan to improve the prison system, but this will work only if it has the funding to underpin the plan. We note the recent schools funding announcement for the three years to 2022–23 and would welcome something similar for prisons. We recommend that the Ministry works with HM Treasury to agree long-term funding plans, to give the Prison Service and prison governors the confidence and stability to drive real change in prisons.

44.The Secretary of State emphasised the need to take a cross-departmental approach to funding the whole criminal justice system, telling us in July 2019, when he was Prisons Minister, that:

It is welcome to hear that the future Government will invest more in policing, but that will have a knock-on effect. With more police officers, we can expect to see more arrests. With more arrests, we can expect to see more prosecutions. With more prosecutions, we expect more contact with the Prison and Probation Service. If there is to be an increase in resources, it needs to be met with a whole criminal justice system response. I and my officials are working closely with colleagues in the Home Office and the Attorney-General’s office to make sure that when the spending review process begins, instead of being dealt with on a departmental basis, it is dealt with on a thematic basis.70

The Government recognised this in recent policy announcements on prisons. In its press release announcing up to £2.5 billion to build 10,000 additional prison places, the Government said that “This major investment builds upon the Prime Minister’s commitment to recruit 20,000 more frontline police officers over the next 3 years–to protect the public and cut crime. Ensuring prisons have sufficient capacity to hold the additional offenders who will be caught, charged and sentenced is a crucial part of the government’s effort to create a more effective justice system.”71

45.We have previously called for a similar approach in relation to reoffending, recommending in our report, Prison Population 2022, that the next Spending Review “should be broadened to encompass a more systemic approach to managing the £18 billion a year cost of reoffending. This should include downstream measures, which are out of the control of the Ministry of Justice.”72 The cross-system approach the Government has taken to the criminal justice sector in its recent policy announcements is welcome. However, we would like to see more detail on how the Government will take the same approach in relation to reoffending, as the Secretary of State set out when giving evidence to us.

1 According to the Ministry of Justice’s Safety in Custody Statistics, assaults are continuing to rise in relation to both prisoners and staff. Ministry of Justice, Safety in Custody Statistics, England and Wales: Deaths in Prison Custody to June 2019 Assaults and Self-harm to March 2019, 25 July 2019, page 1.


7 Letter from Sir Richard Heaton, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Justice to Bob Neill, Chair, Justice Committee, Ministry of Justice Main Estimate 2019–20, 2 July 2019 and Justice Committee, Prison population 2022: planning for the future, HC 483, April 2019, page 79

11 Ministry of Justice, Prison population bulletin August 2019, 30 August 2019; Ministry of Justice, Prison population bulletin August 2018, 31 August 2018. Figures exclude HMPPS Operated Immigration Removal Centres (IRCs).

12 Letter from Robert Buckland, Secretary of State for Justice to Peter Dawson, Director, Prison Reform Trust, on the 10,000 extra prison places, 11 September 2019

13 Ministry of Justice, Prison Population Projections 2019 to 2024, England and Wales, 29 August 2019, page 1

14 WS HCWS1842 [Sentencing Update], 01 October 2019

15 See for example David Godfrey (PPG0038); The Howard League for Penal Reform (PPG0011); Dr Philippa Tomczak (PPG0008);Prison Reform Trust (PPG0003).

16 Q25 [F Crook]

17 NPC (PPG0034)

18 United Nations Committee Against Torture, Concluding observations on the sixth periodic report of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, CAT/C/GBR/CO/6, 7 June 2019, page 5

19 Office of Police and Crime Commissioner Devon and Cornwall (PPG0016)

20 Prison Reform Trust, Prisons: the facts, Bromley Briefings Summer 2019, August 2019

21 Ministry of Justice, Prison Population Projections 2019 to 2024, England and Wales, 29 August 2019, page 11

22 NHS England (PPG0045)

23 Justice Committee, Prison population 2022: planning for the future, HC 483, April 2019, page 5

24 See for example Dr Philippa Tomczak (PPG0008); NPC (PPG0034); Nacro (PPG0028); The Open University (PPG0013)

26 Q379 [P Clarke]

27 Q379 [A Owers]

29 HC Deb, 03 November 2016, col 1067 [Commons Chamber]

30 See for example Prison Governors’ Association (PPG0040). We also discussed the OMiC model when we met with prison governors on 5 June 2019 and the notes of that meeting can be found in Annex 1.

31 Q417 [R Buckland]

32 Prison Governors’ Association (PPG0040)

33 Prisons and Probation Ombudsman (PPG0023)

34 Clinks (PPG0027)

35 Ministry of Justice, Single Departmental Plan 2019 - 2022, 27 June 2019

36 Q417 [J Farrar]

37 Justice Committee, Oral evidence: Prison population 2022: planning for the future, HC 483, Q500

38 Letter from Rory Stewart to Bob Neill, Chair, Justice Committee, ‘Prison Population 2022’, 18 January 2019

40 Justice Committee, Prison Population 2022: Planning for the future: Government Response to the Committee’s Sixteenth Report of 2017–19, HC 2308, June 2019, page 28

41 See for example Ministry of Justice (PPG0014)

42 Clinks (PPG0027)

43 Prison Reform Trust (PPG0003)

44 See for example Prisons and Probation Ombudsman (PPG0023); Professor Nicholas Hardwick (PPG0015)

45 Professor Nicholas Hardwick (PPG0015)

46 Justice Committee, Prison Population 2022: planning for the future, HC 483, April 2019, page 104

47 Letter from the Chair, Justice Committee, to David Gauke, Secretary of State for Justice, Prison population 2022: planning for the future, 26 June 2019

48 Letter from David Gauke, Secretary of State for Justice, to the Chair, Justice Committee, Prison population 2022: planning for the future, 16 July 2019

49 Ministry of Justice, 10,000 extra prison places to keep the public safe, 11 August 2019 [accessed 20/09/2019]

50 Ministry of Justice, £100 million crackdown on crime in prison, 13 August 2019 [accessed 20/09/2019]. The announcement of the £100 million investment in prison security follows a £70 million investment last year, which funded new security measures such as improved search teams, a digital categorisation tool to better manage offenders’ risk, and improvements to the physical security and safety of the prison estate.

51 Ministry of Justice, Sentencing review to look at most dangerous and prolific offenders, 12 August 2019 [accessed 20/09/2019]

52 WS HCWS1842 [Sentencing Update], 01 October 2019

53 Ministry of Justice, Prison Safety and Reform, Cm 9350, November 2016, page 11

54 Letter from Robert Buckland, Secretary of State for Justice to Peter Dawson, Director, Prison Reform Trust, on the 10,000 extra prison places, 11 September 2019. A new houseblock was opened at HMP Stocken in June 2019, creating an additional 206 places. The new prisons at Glen Parva and Wellingborough are each due to have capacities of 1680 respectively.

55 PQ 2862 9 [Prisons], 3 September 2019

56 HM Treasury, Central Government Supply Estimates 2017–18 Supplementary Estimates, February 2018, page 359; HM Treasury, Central Government Supply Estimates 2018–19 Supplementary Estimates, February 2018, page 370.

57 Justice Committee, Prison Population 2022: planning for the future, HC 483, April 2019, page 52

58 HC Deb, 14 May 2019, col 110 [Commons Chamber]

59 Q421 [R Buckland]

60 HM Chief Inspector of Prisons for England and Wales, Annual Report 2018–19, HC 2469, July 2019, page 7

62 POA (PPG0010)

63 Prisoner Learning Alliance (PPG0024)

64 Prison Reform Trust (PPG0003)

65 Prison Governors’ Association (PPG0040)

66 Mr Philip Wheatley (PPG0009)

67 Justice Committee, Prison Population 2022: planning for the future, HC 483, April 2019, page 20

71 Ministry of Justice, 10,000 extra prison places to keep the public safe, 11 August 2019 [accessed 20/09/2019]

72 Justice Committee, Prison Population 2022: planning for the future, HC 483, April 2019, page 21

Published: 31 October 2019