Can Labour solve our prisons crisis?

16 min listen

Justice secretary Shabana Mahmood has acknowledged that ‘our prisons are on the point of collapse’. She has announced that, from September, most prisoners serving sentences of less than four years will be released 40 per cent of the way through their sentences instead of the halfway point, which is currently the case. The policy will ease pressure on prisons, but the question remains; could this backfire? Katy Balls speaks to Fraser Nelson and Professor Ian Acheson, former prison governor and former Director of Community Safety at the Home Office. You can listen to Shabana Mahmood on Women With Balls here.

Can Labour solve our prisons crisis?

There is no doubt that the new government (and in particular the prisons minister, James Timpson) is faced with a serious prison population crisis. Original thinking and a willingness to challenge the system will be the only way out. As HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, I know this all too well. Last month I inspected Durham, a Georgian reception jail which regularly vies for the dubious honour of being the most overcrowded prison along with Leeds, Bedford and Wandsworth. Half of all prisoners are functionally illiterate and yet few are taught to read With remand populations (those who have yet to be convicted) at historic highs, reception prisons across the

How violent are prisons?

Name calling Springwatch presenter Gillian Burke says she finds it ‘jarring’ to call animals by their English names, preferring Swahili. Some popular Swahili translations: – Elephant: tembo/ndovu – Giraffe: twiga – Lion: simba – Hyena: fisi – Hippopotamus: hippopotamus – I’m fed up of paying for a TV licence: Nimechoka kulipa leseni ya TV Full Marx A Labour politician named Karl Peter Marx Wardlow was elected as a councillor in Stockport. The fondness for left-wing parents to name their children after their political heroes is most obvious in Keir Starmer – his first name is also shared with Keir Mather, who won the Selby and Ainsty by-election for Labour last

The toxic prison attitude that can cost inmates their lives

David Morgan, a 35 year-old man, told staff he’d taken an overdose. A nurse decided the man seemed drunk and needed to ‘sober up’. No proper medical assessment was conducted, and staff locked him in a holding cell. Over the next two and a half hours David became ‘increasingly distressed and unwell’, ‘incapable of coherent speech’ and ‘was unable to prevent himself from repeatedly falling on the floor’. Meanwhile the nurse, and prison staff looked on. As a result of these multiple falls, David broke his nose, fractured both legs and sustained significant bruising to his head and face. Eventually he lost consciousness, was taken to hospital and died eight

Cindy Yu

Cindy Yu, Charlie Taylor and Petroc Trelawney

17 min listen

Cindy Yu tells the story of how she got to know Westminster’s alleged Chinese agent and the astonishment of seeing herself pictured alongside him when the story broke (01.12), Charlie Taylor, His Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Prisons, talks breakouts, bureaucracy and stabbings, and wonders – where have all the inspirational leaders gone (06.45), and Petroc Trelawney shares his classical notebook and describes a feeling of sadness as the BBC Proms wraps up for another year (11.54). Produced and presented by Linden Kemkaran.

Our prison culture is more barbaric than it was in 1823: Elizabeth Fry ‘The Angel of Prisons’ reviewed

The Angel of Prisons dramatises the life of the penal reformer Elizabeth Fry, who lived near Canning Town. She married a wealthy Quaker, Joseph Fry, who encouraged her philanthropic work which she managed to pursue while raising 12 children. Early in life, Fry had been a party girl who loved dancing, and this production shows her practising her moves to a soundtrack of thumping contemporary music. The script, by James Kenworth, blends present-day London vernacular with the dialect of the early 19th century. It’s easy to watch and it delivers heaps of information without any hint of lecture-hall formality. When Fry visited the mixed-gender Newgate Prison near the Old Bailey

Our prisons are woefully unprepared for Ali Harbi Ali

The Islamist terrorist Ali Harbi Ali will spend the rest of his life behind bars for the murder of Sir David Amess MP. But as he fades from public view, will his risk also disappear? That’s a headache our beleaguered prison service will now have for decades to come. The signs are not promising. Harbi Ali, who reportedly smirked after stabbing Amess more than 20 times, showed no sign of remorse or contrition throughout his trial. Unlike many of the terrorists he will be joining in one of our high security prisons, he managed to convert his distorted thoughts into lethal action. He’s a blooded jihadist and he will be

The case for isolating terrorists in prison is stronger than ever

Watching last night’s ITV report from inside two of Britain’s highest security jails was an odd experience for me. The focus on terrorist offenders at HMP Frankland gave us a unique (although much pixelated) glimpse inside the separation units I urged the government to create back in 2016. I’ve had virtually no formal contact with HM Prison Service since. I sense this is in no small part due to the embarrassment I caused my former senior colleagues by revealing their corporate approach to counter terror –mired at that time in a culture of complacency, arrogance, denial and ineptitude. Having led a thorough independent review of the threat posed by Islamist

Held me so fast I was outbid on eBay: Clemency reviewed

Clemency stars Alfre Woodard as a prison warden on death row whose job is beginning to take its toll, and if you think it sounds like a tough watch, you’d be right. But it is also a masterwork, won the Grand Jury prize at Sundance, and doesn’t at any juncture call on the uplifting, healing power of cake — see: Love Sarah — so it has that going for it too. This film held me so fast I was outbid on eBay on a vintage sideboard I’d had my eyes on for ages It’s yet another film that you’ll have to stream digitally. (July was meant to be the month

How will the government handle coronavirus in our prisons?

Covid-19 has entered our prison system. There are now at least two confirmed coronavirus cases in HMPs Manchester and Highdown in Surrey, which means staff and prisoners there are in isolation and hospital. This was inevitable, and as I have said previously, our overcrowded and under-resourced jails need special, urgent consideration. Prisons incubate many malign things behind their walls. Local prisons in particular are overcrowded and insanitary transit camps for people and viruses. So, now that prisoners have become infected, what’s to be done? The Government does have a plan. I understand that next week legislation will be introduced that will allow certain risk assessed prisoners serving more than 12

The nightmare scenario of a coronavirus prison outbreak

Scared about coronavirus as you go about your everyday life? Spare a thought for those living and working inside our battered prison system. In Italy yesterday the anxiety that underpins all incarceration suddenly exploded into violence. Rioting left six prisoners dead, staff were taken hostage, dozens escaped and one prison in Poggioreale near Naples was ‘completely destroyed’. The ferocious backlash was in response to tough new measures introduced across the country to try to slow the relentless progress of Covid-19. These included a ban on the all-important prisoner family visits, which are seen by experts as dramatically increasing the risk of contagion in places almost wholly unsuited to withstand its effects. Italy has

The Streatham terror attack reveals a failure within our prisons

The Streatham attack, again, highlights the problem of what to do with those convicted of terror offences. Longer sentences are, obviously, part of the answer. One of the purposes of prison is to keep those who are a danger to the public off the streets. Letting those convicted of terror offences out early doesn’t fit with that. It is absurd that someone can plead guilty in November 2018 to possessing and disseminating jihadi materials and then be released in January 2020. But the other issue is what is going on inside our prisons. It is all too clear that Suddesh Amman did not come out of prison deradicalised. Neither did