Prisons can cope with UK riots inmates, says minister

Crispin Blunt Crispin Blunt believes the prison population will be back to normal within six months

Prisons Minister Crispin Blunt has said the disturbances in English cities this month were a "one-off" event.

Mr Blunt said the justice system could cope in the short-term and there would be no long-term effect on the prison population in England and Wales.

Last Friday the number of inmates hit a record of almost 87,000, largely driven by the riots, but the government expects numbers to fall again in 2012.

Mr Blunt was speaking at the launch of a tougher community service regime.

BBC home affairs correspondent Danny Shaw said Mr Blunt believed harsher terms for rioters were justified under case law.

But the coalition's long-term plan to reform prisons and sentencing was unaffected by the riots, our correspondent added.

Ministers have said they want to cut costs by reducing the population through the introduction of the more robust community sentences for some offenders and improvements in the rehabilitation of offenders.

Adequate punishment?

Since the riots, the prison population has gone up by more than 1,000.

As of Tuesday, there were 797 suspects on remand, almost two-thirds of all those to have so far come before the courts.

Prisons chiefs have devised contingency plans in case they run out of space.

In his first interview since the disturbances, the prisons minister said that he was completely confident the system could cope and that the jail population would be back to where it was before the trouble within six months.

"We are completely confident that the prison system and justice system are going to be able to cope with what the police are producing for us," he told the BBC.

"This is an exceptional event. There will be a one-off increase in prison numbers as people serve their sentences.

"What we have to do is make sure there are prison places for those sent to prison by the courts and we will continue to do that regardless of how many people are sent to prison."

His comments came as he promoted the Ministry of Justice's previously-announced plan to make more use of community-based sentences for some offenders.

Mr Blunt confirmed that from next year unemployed offenders doing unpaid work - known as community payback - will be made to do it full-time rather than spread out over many months.

Under the current arrangements, offenders can work as little as six hours a week on manual labour projects such as cleaning up graffiti.

The scheme aims to force offenders to work a minimum of 28 hours over four days with the fifth spent looking for a job. Ministers say the punishment will also be delivered more immediately after sentence.

Some 100,000 offenders are given community sentences every year and the public can nominate online the jobs they want doing.

Labour said "tough community sentences" were appropriate in some circumstances but questioned how the government's plans could be achieved under planned cuts to probation services.

A spokesman said: "People will want assurances that sentences being served by offenders in the community are providing adequate punishment as well as rehabilitation and that they are being carried out safely with proper supervision."

Harry Fletcher, assistant general secretary of probation union Napo, said: "Previous attempts to have offenders doing payback all week have failed because they would have lost their Jobseeker's Allowance as they would have been unavailable to seek work.

"This proposal gets round that problem; however, the scheme will only be viable if it is properly resourced, if it doesn't put council workers out of work and that the offenders are fit to carry out the tasks."

Paul McDowell, from the crime reduction charity Nacro, said the "proposals must strike the right balance between punishment and public protection".


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  • rate this

    Comment number 256.

    @235 Billy

    Lol 'corporate punishment' how fiendish, make them wear suits and work in offices. That will show them.

    Sorry couldn't resist.

  • Comment number 255.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 254.

    @232 Divots

    The very fact that you got rated down so badly is a testiment to the truth of your words. Anyone who agreed with you would be busy working or studying.

    I'm the exception as I have a day off lol. Rated you up for what it was worth.

  • rate this

    Comment number 253.

    The government knows it is stting on a tinderbox of discontent. And the discontent comes from the instant gratification culture which politicians have fostered or at least not detered. Proir to 2008 and the financial crisis it was ok even fashionable, now not ok. But the stress in terms of expectations and reality is sending out shock waves throughout society due to the speed of change. A meltdown

  • rate this

    Comment number 252.

    I am concerned that 'hug a hoodie' has turned in 'hoodie bashing season'. Yep there was a high criminal element in the riots but let's not get carried awaye here. There are also underlying social reason and these need to be addressd. But these are more difficult for policticians and Daily Mail/Express readers to deal with.

  • rate this

    Comment number 251.

    Dare I mention Notting Hill, Poll Tax, Oldham, Miners Strike etc etc etc ? Wherever you dehumanise people, and exclude them from taking part in society then there is potential for riots. Now what's going on in Tripoli ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 250.

    Start by giving Basic Subsistence Welfare to British Citizens, whose means are below a certain level, as a Human Right, so that the least of us have some Respect, Dignity and Security. Govt and the Media should stop demonising and harassing Welfare Claimants which is Human Rights abuse of Poor and Vulnerable people. That is the first step towards a more Enlightened and Compassionate Society.

  • rate this

    Comment number 249.

    This man does not know what he is talking about - where is the evidence that this will not get worse.
    Since the coalition got in there have been demonstrations, protests turning violent and riots on a continuous basis. He is the same as the now kicked out Tory who said we had never had it so good in a recession.
    Does this get the post past the BBC censorship now?

  • rate this

    Comment number 248.


    He didn't say the riots were a one-off; he said they were an exceptional event leading to a one-off increase in the prison population - which is 100% true. It was indeed a one-off increase in the prison population, meaning a shock to the normal rate of incarceration.

    The BBC is full of dodgy, misleading headlines. You should read the article.

  • rate this

    Comment number 247.

    I would encourage people to read your article - What is the impact of a criminal record?

    The real punishment isn't the temporary loss of freedoms but the long term ramifications of having a criminal record.

    What is concerning is the wide range of people involved - it wasn't just career criminals or feral youth.

    One-off, doubt it, take away hope and I would expect more bitterness and anger.

  • rate this

    Comment number 246.

    Rotherham Lad
    7 Minutes ago

    Is it just me, or has anyone else noticed how this "government" is very keen on pointing to "one-off events", "unforseeable international circumstances" and so many more "sound bite" names for things going wrong on their watch?

    And let's not forget their old chestnut "We inherrited this mess" - that one was still being used over a year after getting in!

  • rate this

    Comment number 245.

    Who should be my role models ? The bent politicians, greedy bankers, corrupt editors & police, bullying businessmen, tabloid 'celebs', or spinless PC administrators and beaurocrats who wont make decisions for fear of the consequences. It's a tough choice ! Which way to the airport ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 244.

    242.Rotherham Lad

    I think you'll find that the majority of what have been described as one-offs have occurred under the Coalition, but it's not actually the Coalition who have released such statements.

    The ONS is the independent statistical body responsible for releasing economic data, and it is the ONS who adds commentary about things like the effects of snow, and the BoE on inflation.

  • rate this

    Comment number 243.

    If Mr Blunt thinks these riots are a one off, wait until the iphone 5 comes out next summer. Board up your shops!

  • rate this

    Comment number 242.

    Is it just me, or has anyone else noticed how this "government" is very keen on pointing to "one-off events", "unforseeable international circumstances" and so many more "sound bite" names for things going wrong on their watch?

    Makes you wonder who is running the country.....!

  • rate this

    Comment number 241.

    re156 crossie and all other numpties who think prison is a holiday must assume that you've never been inside and get your info direct from the hatemail.they may get TV,they may be allowed to entertain themselves with games; what they do not have is their liberty.that's the point of we expect the authorities to torture and mutilate to teach them more of a lesson?

  • rate this

    Comment number 240.

    Govt back tracking now from its earlier position that the riots were symptomatic of a general decline in UK moral standards.
    Saying the riots are a one off is a cop out for doing nothing - abdicating their responsibility.
    A main here, IMO,problem is that the MP's are unable to set the standards for the rest of the big troubled society to follow; as too many of them make excellent whittols.

  • rate this

    Comment number 239.

    If Mr. Blunt actually thinks that these riots are a 'one-off' as he puts it, then I am afraid to say that he is delusional. You 'reap what you sow.'

  • Comment number 238.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 237.

    The idea the riots were a one off is a mistake in my opinion. Wait until next summer, when the government's cuts start to kick in and take effect. We will see the whole thing start all over again.


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