Simon Hughes, Liberal Democrat Minister of State for Justice and Civil Liberties, has admitted publicly that the prison system is in crisis, making a break with government policy. Hughes made the remarks during an interview with the Independent newspaper, in which he criticised government policy as ‘knee-jerk’ and focused on placing a ‘sticking plaster’ on a crisis.
The public comments by a senior government minister reveal how much of a crisis the prison system is actually in. Hughes’ comments follow a range of criticisms made, not least by the independent inspector of prisons, Nick Hardwick, whose annual report blamed policy pressures, staff shortages and overcrowding as causing a decline in prisoner safety. The Howard League for Penal Reform recently released findings that some prisons have seen a reduction in staffing of up to 40%, while violence has increased simultaneously.
Figures for re-offending released by the Ministry of Justice also reveal how for adults who have served less than 12 months in custody between January and December 2012, the re-offending rate was 57.6% – well over half.
Secretary of State for Justice Chris Grayling MP continues to deny there is a crisis, despite this recent outburst from a Minister in his own department.
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For the Independent newspaper article, please see ‘Grice, A. ‘Prisons Minister Simon Huhges hits out at Tories’ ‘sticking plaster solutions’ for jail crisis‘