In the first part of this discussion on the Prison Service I outlined what is happening in terms of the pay, conditions and recruitment into the Prison Service, together with the impact of the Zero Based Bench-marking and New Ways of Working “initiatives”.
So what effect is this having upon the Prison Service today? The following are genuine occurrences in prisons in the preceding days at the time of writing.
On Thursday 2 January 2014 three prisoners wearing balaclavas and armed with table legs assaulted a lone Officer during movement of prisoners back to their cells. They took his keys off him and gained access to a non-prisoner area where civilians work. Before Officers were able to intervene they had completely destroyed an office containing vital work and information. HMP Nottingham has been restructured under this Zero Based Bench-marking and New Ways of Working, and had its staffing levels reduced as a result. The cause of this incident has been directly linked to reduced staffing levels. Later that evening the prison management thought it was a good idea to still let prisoners out of their cells. As a result two prisoners then gained access to the netting above the stairs. National resources then had to be called out to resolve the incident. All of this has a cost attached for the tax payer.
On the same day a package that had been thrown over a prison wall in the north east was intercepted. It contained knives and mobile phones amongst other items. Had this got to the prisoners it was intended for, could the murder of staff been just one of the results?
Friday 3 January saw further Prison Service news demonstrating the crisis and turmoil in our prison system. The Prison Service is spending £70,000 of tax payers’ money on a survey asking prisoners why they use mobile phones in prisons. The Prison Service has stated that mobile phone blockers are too expensive. At the Prison Officers’ Association Annual Conference in 2013 I brought a motion to make it POA policy that all prisons should have mobile phone blockers to render the trade and use of mobile phones in prisons obsolete. This was overwhelmingly accepted. The Prison Service is fully aware of this as they had observers at the Conference. Unfortunately rather than working with the POA, the Government and Prison Service have decided that spending £70,000 asking prisoners why they use mobile phones in prison would be a good idea, and naturally every prisoner will answer the survey honestly! £70,000 would buy 1,166 blockers at a list price of £60 per unit with a range of 10m. However, I doubt with the bulk buying power of the Ministry of Justice and the volume required that the unit cost would be anywhere near £60, and then there would be no need for this survey!
Thursday 2 January also saw the publication of some very interesting data on the prisons run by the private sector in England and Wales. One statement about HMP Oakwood makes the situation there very clear:
Grayling’s beloved HMP Oakwood was recently found by inspectors to be in urgent need of a rescue plan, with inexperienced prison staff so unwilling to keep inmates under control that it verged on collusion. Inspectors were told “on more than one occasion…that you can get drugs easier than soap.”
The Ministry of Justice’s Prison Performance Assessment Tool (PPAT) found the average private sector performance to be 2.6 and the public sector 2.85. These private prisons are managed by the same companies who have over-charged the Taxpayer for prisoners who are fitted with monitoring tags after release, who either don’t exist or are even dead in some cases. The first private sector prison HMP Wolds was found to be managed so ineptly that it is now in the public sector. Two of the three worst rated prisons in the country are in the private sector. The public have a lot to thank the current Coalition Government and the previous Labour Government for.
I am sure everyone in this country is aware of the savage and barbaric murder of Drummer Lee Rigby in Woolwich by Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale. Prior to their trial, Michael Adebolajo behaved in an aggressive and dangerous manner towards Officers which meant that he needed to be restrained for the safety of staff and for the prisoner’s own safety. All operational Prison Officer Grades are trained in Home Office approved techniques in Control and Restraint and have to pass an annual refresher in this training. The management at the establishment where this happened immediately suspended these five Officers subject to a Police investigation into whether they assaulted Michael Adebolajo. The CPS and the Police have said these five Officers have no case to answer and that they will not be prosecuted. The Prison Service, however, has decided to now conduct its own investigation into the five and they remain suspended from duty pending a Prison Service investigation.
This has just been an example of what has happened in the Prison Service over a very short period of time, there are far worse examples in the last year alone. The Prison Service is lurching from crisis to crisis and the point will come when the system collapses and someone is murdered whilst working in a prison. But as a news report has said:
During Mr Clegg’s outburst, he also criticised Theresa May’s Home Office for causing difficulties for No.10 – and compared both Mr Gove and Mrs May unfavourably to Justice Secretary Chris Grayling, whose department, he said, ‘works really well’.
Thank you for that Mr Clegg! So it is clear that the existing Westminster parties are incapable of running a prisons system that serves the country effectively and efficiently. Is there an alternative? UKIP is the only alternative, and is currently devising a prisons policy that addresses these issues and more. We currently have a bargain basement Prison Service, but so much more can and should be achieved. Only UKIP can provide that, so when you are at the ballot box in the European and General Elections please remember this and vote UKIP.