Chris Grayling

Labour should stop whipping up fears about our prisons. They created Britain’s only recent prison crisis

Sadiq Khan, the Shadow Justice Secretary, took to these pages earlier to claim that ‘This Government’s disastrous prisons policy is putting the public at risk.’ He’s been trying to claim for months that we have a prison crisis, and it is quite simply not true.

Let’s start with some simple truths.

The figures published yesterday showed that prison overcrowding is falling.

And it’s much lower than it was under Labour.

That the amount of practical work, often with employers who will give a job to those prisoners when they are released, is rising steadily.

And it’s far higher than it was under Labour.

That the number of people who self-harm in prison is lower than it was two years ago.

And it’s lower than under Labour.

The number of assaults on staff is lower than it was under Labour.

The number of positive drug tests is lower than it was under Labour.

The number of escapes from custody is lower than it was under Labour.

The number of people who abscond from open prison is a fraction of what it was under Labour.

And all of that is being achieved by a prison service that has had to reduce its costs substantially, as has the rest of the public sector as we deal with the mess that Labour left behind.

Yes there are some challenges. The rate of suicide in prison has increased significantly – and that’s a worry. It’s a trend that is happening across society, not just in prisons, particularly among young men. It’s something we are looking at carefully. No one has yet come up with a credible explanation.

But it’s not to do with cuts. We know that because this has also been an issue in prisons which have seen no change to staffing and in some places where staffing has increased.

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