HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, Peter Clarke warns prisons have become “unacceptable violent and dangerous places” in his first Annual Report released today.
Mr. Clarke noted the “grim situations” of prisons in 2015-2016 and how it has “not
improved” since Nick Hardwick’s report last year.
“In some key areas it has become worse,” he revealed.
The report shows a ‘huge’ increase in serious assaults, self-harm, suicide and synthetic drug use.
Over 200,00 assaults were reported and indicated a 27% rise. Additionally, over 32,000 incidents of self-harm and 100 self-inflicted deaths marked a 25% and 27% growth from the previous year.
New Justice Secretary, Liz Truss said she is under “no illusions about the scale of the challenge” and “how long reform takes”.
Her predecessor Michael Gove announced plans in May for the country’s first autonomous reform of prisons. In the ‘biggest shake-up of the prison system since Victorian times’, six pilot prisons will be allocated governor autonomy by the end of 2016.
Ms. Truss- who was elected last week- plans to follow through with Mr. Gove’s reform proposal.
Criticism from the inside
Current and former inmates are skeptical about changes to prison autonomy.
Former B Cap prisoner, Alex Cavendish called the new reforms a “two-edge-sword”.
“You can have a lenient governor who might leave after four years. Then you can have a hardline governor who imposes restrictions,” he said.
Current inmate at high security HMP Wakefield, Adam Mac said he was ‘nervous’ about the reforms outlined by Mr. Gove.
“The worst thing you can do to prisoners is give them institutional privilege and then take it away. This is when prisoners turn violent. If autonomy comes in that is going to get a lot worse,” he said.
New Psychoactive Substances
Last year the outgoing inspector said prisons were in their worst state in ten years. The expediential rise in violence in prisons from 2015-2016 is attributed to increased popularity in new psychoactive substances (NPS).
“It is clear that a large part of this violence is linked to the harm caused by new psychoactive substances which are having a dramatic and destabilising effect in many of our prison,” Mr. Clarke noted.
Mr. Clarke- who was appointed as chief inspector of prisons in January- said there was yet to be a strategy for dealing with this drug-related problem.
Ms. Truss said she would “set out the next steps for this agenda in coming weeks.”