Minister pledges cash injection for jails in bid to cut soaring violence
Ten of Britain’s toughest prisons will be handed extra cash in a bid to cut down on soaring violence, ministers have announced.
A £10m package outlined by Justice Minister Rory Stewart will inject extra funding into 10 jails facing “acute problems”.
The money is set to gear up the prisons with new perimeter fences, body scanners for detecting drugs, and sniffer dogs trained to spot new psychoactive substances like spice.
Extra funding will also be channelled towards building repairs and military-style training for staff to help them "challenge disruptive and violent behaviour fairly, consistently and firmly", the Ministry of Justice said.
MoJ figures published last month showed a 16% year-on-year spike in assault incidents in jails in England and Wales, with prisoner-on-prisoner assaults reaching record highs.
Assaults on prison staff also reached record levels, with 22,374 such incidents taking place last year alone.
Unveiling the fresh safety drive, Mr Stewart said: "With the right leadership on the ground, and support from the centre, these 10 prisons will pave the way for a new approach, a new ethos and a new direction.
"We need to make these prisons calmer, more orderly places and in the end that comes down to challenging and managing prisoners consistently, firmly and fairly. And we will put our support and training behind our prison officers to make that happen.
"No-one can hope to change an entire system overnight. But through these vital improvements to 10 prisons, we can set a course for the rest of the estate to follow – leading us to a system that truly rehabilitates, cuts reoffending and ultimately keeps the public safer."
The department is promising that the ten chosen sites - Hull, Humber, Leeds, Lindholme, Moorland, Wealstun, Nottingham, Ranby, Isis and Wormwood Scrubs - will have the new schemes up and running with "tangible results" in twelve months.
But Labour slammed the new announcement, and accused the Government of making the crisis worse by failing to provide adequate funding.
Shadow Justice Secretary Richard Burgon said: "The Conservatives' decision to axe thousands of officers and cut hundreds of millions from prisons budgets created a deep crisis in our prisons.
"The Government needs to go much further and set out an emergency plan across the prisons estate with substantial new funding that puts an end to this crisis and makes our prisons safe and humane."
That view was echoed by Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust charity.
He said: "It was a catastrophic failure to provide that balance which caused the collapse of prison safety after 2012 - trying to tell governors how to run prisons is not going to put it right."
The £10m detailed by the Ministry of Justice today forms part of a £30m package announced in July, which also included funding for more in-cell telephones in a bid to stop outbreaks of violence resulting from prisoners having to queue to use public phones.