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Britain’s prisons are set to be extensively reformed according to a comprehensive set of proposals outlined in a new Government White Paper

Under the plans laid out in the document, £1.3bn will be invested into new prisons over the next five years. This will include six adult male institutions and five community prisons for women. A further wave of new prisons will follow, with an additional 2,100 officers to be recruited across the country.

Elsewhere, new performance measures will be introduced, in a bid to help governors clarify what they are expected to achieve. Results of these targets will be published in an annual league table. Meanwhile, governors will benefit from heightened autonomy, and offenders will be matched with dedicated officers to offer them bespoke support.

A clearly defined legal operating framework for prisons will also be introduced, along with emergency intervention procedures to be deployed when institutions are falling short. What’s more, there will be a “greater bite” to the existing inspection regime. Moreover, the document affirms that a statutory purpose for the prison system will be created by the end of this Parliament, subject to the passage of legislation.

“Our aim is to place rehabilitation of prisoners squarely alongside safety, security and cost effectiveness as one of the key purposes of prison,” states the White Paper.

Long-term goals

It is hoped that the plans will help to tackle recidivism levels amongst offenders in the future. Indeed, current figures show that almost half of adult prisoners are reconvicted within a year of release, rising to almost 60 per cent in the case of those serving sentences of under 12 months. 

Another key priority is to reduce the number of violent episodes within penal institutions, which has grown intensity over the past year. In 2015-16, there were 5,423 assaults on prison staff in England and Wales, an increase of 1,536 on the year before.

Justice Minister Liz Truss says: “This is a blueprint for the biggest overhaul of our prisons in a generation. This is a challenge that will take time and determination to deliver, but society can no longer afford to ignore what goes on behind those high walls. We need to make prisons places of safety and reform.”

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