Prison Safety and Reform White Paper promises greater scrutiny of prison performance

The Secretary of State for Justice, Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss MP, today announced the publication of the long-awaited Prison Safety and Reform White Paper, setting out “the most far-reaching prison reforms for a generation”.

The Prisons and Probation Ombudsman, Nigel Newcomen CBE, said:

“There is much in this White Paper that will be of interest to everyone involved with prisons, but there is also a particularly significant commitment to explore something which I (and my predecessors) have been calling for for some years: putting the PPO on a statutory footing. This would reinforce our independence, give our work the force of law and provide some practical support for our investigations, for example a right of access and publication.

There would still be a lot of work involved to make this happen, but this is a clear ministerial endorsement of the importance and effectiveness of the office and an acknowledgement of the hard work of my staff.”

Prison Safety and Reform: a White Paper presented to Parliament by the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice.

View the press release from the Ministry of Justice.


What’s in the White Paper?
Intended to reduce the rates and cost of reoffending and create a safer environment for both prisoners and officers, giving frontline staff “the time and the tools they need to supervise and support offenders”, the White Paper presents reforms in six key areas:

Stronger accountability and scrutiny
Prison governors and staff should have absolute clarity about their role, the aims of the various inspectorates and scrutiny bodies and the consequences for failing to meet requirements placed on them.

  • “While we think the PPO performs effectively and is widely respected in its current form, we recognise a statutory basis could bolster the status of the role and will explore ways of achieving this.”
  • HMIP’s remit is being expanded – it will now consider how the leadership of a prison is contributing to outcomes of its inspections;
  • Secretary of State or governor will be obliged to respond to HMIP findings within a certain timescale

Raising standards
A clear vision and purpose for all prisons should be set down in law for everyone (from the Secretary of State to prison officers) to follow.

  • New performance  measures will be introduced for every prison from April 2017.
  • An annual league table will be introduced to monitor prisons’ performance against those new measures.

Empowered governors
Building on the devolved authority granted to the six existing reform prisons, by April 2017 governors will have increased authority over:

  • workforce planning to meet local needs;
  • service provision, meaning budget choices about education, work, family ties, resettlement and healthcare;
  • Key operational policies, e.g. more effective use of ROTL; and
  • budget, by removing many centralised restrictions on spending.

Safe and secure prisons
Frontline prison officers should operate “not just as security guards and minders but also as mentors”, rolling out measures already introduced in 10 priority sites:

  • dedicated officers for every prisoner (at a proposed ratio of 1:6);
  • moving responsibility for planning and supporting prisoners from community to governors; and
  • improved case management in prisons

Measures will be introduced to tackle the most pressing security threats in prisons:

  • a simplified framework for testing for new psychoactive substances (NPS)
  • strengthened search capability
  • a step up in efforts to tackling the supply of drugs, mobile devices and detect and block drones from entering the prison estate
  • recruitment of an extra 50 intelligence staff in early 2017 to work in a new national command supported by regional units
  • implementation of a new strategy to address staff corruption; and
  • working with Home Office to strengthen response to the risk of radicalisation and extremism in prisons.

Developing leaders and staff
Extra investment in the existing workforce was announced alongside campaigns to attract new staff:

  • bespoke prison leadership programme by the end of 2017;
  • improved induction and support programme for new staff;
  • training existing staff to take on new responsibilities; and
  • 2,500 extra prison officers by the end of 2018; campaign to recruit ex-armed forces personnel; new graduate recruitment scheme for prison officers in early 2017.

Building the right estate for reform
Intention to create “a reformed estate that will be less crowded, better organised, more effective and comprise modern, fit for purpose accommodation”:

  • Simplified organisation of the estate by spring 2020;
  • HMP Berwyn to open in February 2017;
  • six new adult male prisons and new adult male houseblocks, starting spring 2017; and
  • five new community prisons for women by spring 2020.