On Tuesday, I asked the Prisons Minister, Sam Gyimah MP, about what action he is taking to tackle extremism in our prisons.
This issue is of vital importance to our country as there are growing concerns that our prisons are becoming places of ridicalisation and the failure by the Tory Government to tackle this threat is opening us up to potential terrorist attacks.
I quoted to the Prisons Minister that Ian Acheson, who undertook the Government’s own review into the services, told the Justice committee only last year that “I do not have the confidence that the national offender management service or indeed, if I may be frank, has the capability or the will to implement some of the recommendations I have made.”
When statements like this are being made by those reviewing the Conservatives legislation are appearing you know that a problem exists within the prisons system.
I am determined that our prisons must be secure, both for us and for prisoners. Only then will we reduce long-term re-offending and keep our streets safe.
On Tuesday, I asked the Minister of State for Justice, Dr. Philip Lee MP, if the Minster had a chance to see the damning report on G4S’s performance at Oakhill training centre. I wanted to know if he plans to allow G4S to flog off the centre to an American buyer.
Oakhill is a secure training centre for young offenders. G4S has been contracted to run the centre near Milton Keynes until 2029, so the sale will need to be approved by the Ministry of Justice. An inspection found the site’s overall effectiveness “required improvement”.
Inspectors from education assessor Ofsted also found while record numbers of young people were taking GCSEs, the mix of staff experience at the centre had left to “inconsistency and variability in practice across the centre”.
The Minister confirmed that he had read the report and that he was ‘aware of the difficulties’ at Oakhill. He said that he is keeping a close eye on the process. I welcome this pledge by the Minister, but questions need to be answered as to how we got in this circumstance in the first place.
On Tuesday, I asked the Secretary of State for Justice, Elizabeth Truss MP, about the shortage of prison officers.
I pointed out that there have been an unprecedented 6 major prison incidents in 8 weeks, something I have not seen occur in the 25 years I’ve been a MP. One of the causes for this is staffing shortages.
I wanted to know if she would confirm that the figures to September 2016 displayed a loss of 417 prison officers last year alone and that when she says that she needs to employ 2,500 new officers she actually needs to employ 4,000 in the next 12 months just to meet that 2,500 new officers she notes.
The Justice Secretary agreed with me, but she was not able to confirm my second question that she will be able to meet that number. The staffing shortage has been caused by the Government’s drastic cuts. It now requires a huge recruitment drive to solve it. But it remains my concern that we now have experienced prisoners and inexperienced prison officers. The Government need to ensure that this does not continue and our prison officers get all the support they need.
All too often prison officers are the forgotten public servants and we must all take a moment to thank them for helping keep us safe and giving people the care and support they need to turn their lives around in prison.
On Tuesday, I asked the Secretary of State for Justice, Liz Truss MP, what her department was doing to decrease the number of sick days taken by prison officers.
The number of sicks days have risen to 200,000 days in the past 12 months. This is due in part to the increase attacks on prison officers committed by prisoners. Read more “Justice Questions: Prison Safety”