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Prisons ‘failure’ condemned

The scale of failure, in our prisons and in the disastrous probation reforms, is really quite staggering, Meg Hillier, the Labour London MP and Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, has complained, after PAC has published a report on Ministry of Justice (MoJ) and HM Prison and Probation Service’s “failure” in attempts to improve the condition and suitability of the prison estate.

She described prisons as ‘a clearly broken system’. She said: “The Ministry [MoJ] is still reeling from the long-term consequences of its unrealistic 2015 Spending Review settlement, but our whole society is bearing the financial and human cost of sustained under-investment. Even now, we are not convinced MoJ and HMPPS have the ingredients for an effective, sustainable long-term strategy.

“We now expect a set of reports to be made to us over the coming months, assessing the realistic costs of their mistakes to date and how to fix them, and a credible new plan for a working prison estate and system that can reduce re-offending – not just lock people in to this cycle of violence and harm.”

The Committee says that although COVID-19 has eased pressure on demand for prison places in the short-term, it’s concerned about the Ministry’s ability to improve the condition of the estate, and meet rising demand through building new prison places in the medium to long-term. The Ministry’s track record does not inspire confidence, it says.

As of June 26, 79,393 people were in prison in England and Wales across the 117 prisons within the prison estate. As for facilities management, in 2015 HM Prison Service contracted Amey and Carillion to provide FM across the prison estate. HMPPS’ decision to outsource facilities management ‘was driven by the need to make savings’, according to the report. Carillion collapsed in January 2018.

The report said: “One of the consequences of the Ministry not understanding its assets prior to letting the contracts was that demand for reactive maintenance work as a result of poor-quality assets or vandalism cost the taxpayer almost £143m more than expected between 2015–16 and the first half of 2019–20 … HMPPS accepted that it had been somewhat naïve to expect providers to be able to produce a better quality asset registers than it was able to, and asserted that it had learned lessons …”

For the full report, visit the website.

Pictured; Leicester prison.


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