UK

Prison reforms 'simply not achievable' amid 'loss of control'

Pentonville Prison Image copyright PA
Image caption An inmate died and two were seriously injured at Pentonville Prison on Tuesday

The government's ambitious prison reform plans are "simply not achievable", the former chief inspector of prisons has warned.

Giving a lecture in London, Prof Nick Hardwick said rising suicides, assaults and murders in jails were proof of the "loss of control".

His comments come days after a prisoner was stabbed to death and two others injured in London's Pentonville prison.

The government says it will set out prison safety and reform plans soon.

It has already announced an extra £10m to be spent on prison safety, and 400 extra staff are due to be deployed by March next year.

'Think very carefully'

In his speech, Prof Hardwick - chief inspector of prisons from 2010-16 - said homicide in prison had previously been rare at between one and three a year, but had risen to seven in 2015 and five so far this year.

"I don't believe this recent increase is a coincidence," he said.

"It is the most extreme example of the decline in safety that I... have been warning about for years."

Image copyright Met Police
Image caption Young father Jamal Mahmoud was the fifth person to be killed in prison this year

Given the loss of control, "ambitious plans to improve rehabilitation and education or tackle extremism are simply not achievable", he said.

"I see no sign that the number of homicides, self-inflicted deaths, self-harm incidents and assaults will not continue to rise.

"Politicians, policy-makers and senior managers need to think through very, very carefully and honestly the consequences of further deterioration and how this might end up," he added.

He went on to say that the Prison Governors Association's call for an inquiry into the state of jails in England and Wales was "the last thing we need", as it would take years before any action was taken.

Instead, he said safety in prisons would only improve if there was "a very substantial increase in staffing levels".

Prof Hardwick became chair of the Parole Board in March this year, and was the first chair of the Independent Police Complaints Commission from 2003 to 2010.

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