Prison security will be boosted by a £100 million investment as part of a crackdown on crime behind bars, the Government has announced. The investment will target all types of crime in prison – from drug smugglers fuelling a rise in violence and self-harm through to gang kingpins continuing to run their operations from jail and on to offenders seeking to contact their victims in the outside world.
Tough airport-style security, including X-ray scanners and metal detectors, will be put into prisons across the estate to clamp down on the drugs, weapons and mobile phones that increase the risk posed to prison officers and hinder rehabilitation of the offenders themselves.
Cutting-edge technology to detect and block mobile phones will be brought in to better identify and stop those who seek to organise drug supply or harass victims from the prison wings.
The new funding will bolster efforts to tackle corruption, improving intelligence analysis and strengthening the Counter Corruption Unit that roots out the small minority of dishonest staff and the criminals who seek to manipulate them.
In combination with the 4,700 additional officers who’ve been recruited since late 2016, this investment can have a major impact on crime behind bars. Without phones and access to drugs, criminal networks will be severely hindered, prison officers will be protected and, ultimately, members of the public will be safer.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “We cannot allow our prisons to become factories for making bad people worse. We will stop the drugs, weapons and the mobile phones coming in so that we can safeguard victims, protect staff, cut violence and make our prisons properly equipped to reform and rehabilitate. The public must see justice being done and punishment being served. They must also feel protected.”
Robert Buckland QC MP, Secretary of State for Justice, added: “There’s a direct link between crime on the wings and crime on our streets. It can no longer be assumed that prison walls are enough to stop organised criminals from continuing their operations. This funding will have a transformational effect on prisons and give our hard-working officers the advantage as they tackle this scourge head on. By disrupting those who continue to offend behind bars, we can keep our staff and other prisoners safe and make sure that prisons truly fulfil their purpose of protecting members of the public.”
All prisons across the estate will benefit from the measures, with airport-style security being concentrated in the closed estate.
The new security funding comes days after the Prime Minister announced a programme of up to £2.5 billion to create 10,000 additional prison places.
The £100 million is the latest in a series of significant investments to increase security and stability in prisons, including £70 million announced previously. The £70 million-funded new security measures include improved search teams, a digital categorisation tool to better manage offenders’ risk and improvements to the physical security and safety of the prison estate. Further funding has been made in previous years to build intelligence capabilities, a Financial Investigations Unit and a Serious and Organised Crime Task Force.
This has come against a backdrop of rising prison officer numbers, with more than 4,700 now recruited since October 2016 and staffing levels at their highest since 2012.
Most dangerous and prolific offenders
The Ministry of Justice will conduct an urgent review ordered by the Prime Minister to ensure the public are properly protected from the most dangerous criminals. The work, which begins immediately, will focus on whether violent and sexual offenders are serving sentences that truly reflect the severity of their crimes.
It will consider whether changes in legislation are needed to lock criminals up for longer by not letting them out automatically part-way through a sentence. It will also look at how to break the cycle of repeat offending.
This forms part of a Government overhaul of the criminal justice system to further protect the public by cracking down on crime, raising prison standards, rehabilitating offenders and cutting the vicious cycle of re-offending.
The Government review team will report back directly to the Prime Minister with recommendations this autumn.
Specifically, the review will look at:
*Sentencing for the most serious violent and sexual offenders
*The rules governing when and how these offenders are released
*Sentencing of the most prolific offenders
As reported by Risk Xtra, further £85 million has been awarded to the Crown Prosecution Service to build capacity and manage caseloads over the next two years.
Justice Secretary Robert Buckland QC MP observed: “Too often, the public and victims feel that violent and sexual offenders are being released early and without a proper deterrent to stop their offending. We must ensure that there is confidence in the system, which is why my department will undertake an urgent review of how and when these offenders are released to better protect the public and end the cycle of re-offending. This work is a priority for the Government and we will report back to the Prime Minister with recommendations to ensure punishments properly reflect the severity of their crimes.”
Boris Johnson and Buckland are meeting leaders from the police, probation and prison sectors to discuss how to cut crime and improve the criminal justice system. It comes as an extra £2.5 billion investment has been announced to create 10,000 extra prison places, starting with the new Full Sutton prison.
This follows announcements to recruit 20,000 new police officers over the next three years and the Home Secretary’s confirmation that all 43 police forces in England and Wales can use enhanced Stop and Search powers.