14 Jul 2015

Prison ‘rehabilitation revolution’ lies in tatters

This must be the bleakest picture painted by a chief inspector of prisons.

Nick Hardwick’s last annual report is a blatant warning to the new Justice Secretary Michael Gove.

In it he concludes that prisons in England and Wales are in “their worst state for a decade” with some jails now merely places of “violence, squalor and idleness”.

He describes how when shown a cell during a tour of one London prison, Wormwood Scrubs, a member of staff commented: “I wouldn’t keep a dog in there”.

Homicides are at record levels, and there’s been a 55 per cent increase in serious assaults in the last five years – and still accelerating.

Mr Hardwick says among the factors are staffing levels, sickness rates, a surge in psychoactive substances (legal highs), ministerial policy changes and overcrowding with the prison population now over 90,000.

He said prison staff are “spinning more and more plates and they are starting to drop”.


His message to ministers is that it can’t go on, and the priority for Michael Gove is to urgently reduce the prison intake.

The chief inspector may well have limited the damage during his five and a half years in the job, but his annual report exposes a total failure in the much hyped “rehabilitation revolution” promised by the previous government.

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