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Prisons Strategy White Paper

December 2021
  1. Our prisons and prison regime must protect the public: this means holding prisoners securely whilst they serve the punishment handed down by the courts, and disrupting criminal activity from within the prison walls. Crucially they must also ensure good order and discipline; work to prevent future victims of crime by tackling the underlying causes of offending; and promote rehabilitation and reform to reduce reoffending.
  2. We have made progress in recent years to reform our prisons, but the challenges and opportunities in prisons are changing. The COVID pandemic has led to unprecedented disruption for the prison system; and prison officers across England and Wales, some of the hidden heroes of the justice system, led by our hard-working and able Governors, have risen to the challenge to save lives.
  3. With the investment agreed at the Spending Review in building modern prison places and in reforming offenders, we have the opportunity to build back better from the pandemic, and deliver a prison system which goes further in playing its part in this Government’s mission of beating crime.
  4. This paper sets out what we will deliver over the next two years as well as our longer- term strategic goals. It seeks the views of the committed individuals who work in the justice system and our partners in many charitable organisations who work day in, day out to keep the public safe and to turn prisoners away from crime. We have very high ambitions for the prison system. We plan to begin to transform our approach by:

- Designing and building the modern, secure prison places we need to keep criminals off the streets and also to provide the most productive environment to reform prisoners in custody;

- Ensuring the prison environment is safe, secure and stable for our prison officers and prisoners so that we can properly focus on turning people away from crime;

- Ensuring good order and discipline is maintained in our prisons through effective sanctions for prisoner misconduct, and committing to a zero-tolerance approach to drugs in prisons;

- Cutting crime through using the time offenders spend in prison to deliver a step- change in education, work-focused skills, training and employment delivered in prison, and strengthened family ties so that every prisoner has the best opportunity to leave behind their previous life of crime;

- Ramping up work to tackle the substance misuse and mental health issues which for too many prisoners pose a barrier to rehabilitation reform by deploying the full range of treatment options, including abstinence-based treatment, to support recovery from drug dependency;

- Setting clear expectations of Governors through transparent and measurable KPIs and targets, as well as increasing transparency by publishing prison level performance data;

- Giving Governors autonomy and improving accountability to better align and target rehabilitative interventions around each individual prisoner, so that they are clear on the opportunities and expectations available to them, and partner agencies have clear responsibilities; and

- Empowering Governors to innovate locally, whilst still operating within clear outcome measures which align to the Government’s priorities.

  1. Delivering these ambitions relies on our people. Our plans are underpinned by empowering our prison Governors and their staff to use their professional skills to do what works, setting clear targets and accountabilities across the prison system and continuing efforts to attract and retain talented individuals.
  2. In delivering an effective prison system we will be informed by our values:

- We treat prisoners fairly, safely and decently whilst they are serving their sentences of imprisonment: offering them the chance to turn their lives around whilst ensuring that prisoners who disrupt the good order and discipline of our regimes face swift and certain consequences;

- We support prisoners to address the causes of their behaviour, encouraging them to take advantage of all the opportunities available to them whilst emphasising the consequences of failure to take responsibility for their rehabilitation;

- We offer our staff rewarding careers, treating them with respect, and offering them the support they need to do their jobs safely and effectively;

- We seek out best practice and evidence of what works to inform all that we do.

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