Assaults and Escapes Rise as Prison Cuts Increase

  • A group of MPs have put an increase in assaults in prisons and a rise in escapes down to the government's spending cuts that have been implemented.

    The committee also warns that further cuts are likely to have a negative effect on rehabilitation work, and possibly cause re-offending rates to rise.

    MPs in a public accounts committee have assessed the prison services as facing serious problem with having to find a further £653 million by 2014-15.

    NOMS, which manages 117 public prisons in England and Wales and the contracts of 14 private prisons, is responsible for a prisoner population of around 86,000. It is having to make cuts of £650m to its £3.4bn budget by 2015.

    They are impressed from the report by the national offender management service (NOMS) that they have managed to hit their targeted savings of £230 million in 2011-12, but have found that this already seems to have negatively affected services.

    The report says there has been an increased level of risk in some prisons from the cuts last year already:

    We are concerned about safety and decency in some prisons and the fact that more prisoners are reporting that they do not feel safe.

    Assaults on staff, self-harm and escapes from contractor escorts have all increased. The agency should ensure that savings plans have regard to the potential impact on risks to standards of safety, decency and respect in prisons and in the community.

    There are also further problems expected with more cuts beng required, as one of the main tactics by Chris Graying, Minister for Justice, is to close older prisons - but the report by NOMS shows this could result in over crowding as prison levels are already close to this.

    There is expected to be a drop in staff training for offender management, which would hinder rehabilitation.

    Margarette Hodge, chair of the committee, said:

    There is a risk that reduced (staff) numbers will result in staff being taken off offender management programmes to cover duty on prison wings.

    This means that training and rehabilitation activities could suffer, even though we know these reduce re-offending after release.

    The agency needs to seriously consider the long-term consequences of short-term cuts.

    Justice Secretary Chris Grayling said:

    Running prisons that are safe, decent and secure is a priority. We will continue to drive down running costs by replacing old prison accommodation with new places that are better value for money and provide better opportunities to reduce reoffending.

     

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