A report by the HM Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP) had condemned shocking conditions at HMYOI Brinsford, near Wolverhampton, sparking calls for it to be closed down when it carried out a report in November 2013.
inmates at HMYOI Brinsford had been living in dirty cells which contained graffiti and were poorly furnished.
The 2013 inspection also found that there was insufficient activity for inmates, with just under one third of the population unemployed and only allowed out of their cells for about one hour a day.
Other failings included poor support for those in crisis and 41 per cent of prisoners feeling unsafe at some point during their stay.
The Howard League for Penal Reform had even called for the institution, adjacent to Featherstone and Oakwood prisons near Wolverhampton, to be closed.
But just 15 months later a new report has praised its transformation.
Nick Hardwick, Chief Inspector of Prisons, today published the report of an announced inspection of the young offender institution and said progress made at HMYOI Brinsford was impressive and staff were to be congratulated.
He said: “The response of managers and staff in the prison to the challenge I made after our 2013 inspection has been impressive and more progress than we dared hope for has been made.
“The scale of the problems facing Brinsford was such that there still remains a great deal to do. Some of the improvements we saw were very recent and not yet fully embedded. There should be no room for complacency. Nevertheless, those involved should be congratulated on the progress they have made, which has served the young men held at Brinsford, the staff who work with them and the communities into which they will be released well.”
The report praised the prison for a clean up of external areas which were now “spotlessly clean.” A programme of refurbishment of cells were now underway and many were now in a good condition. Relationships between staff and prisoners were also now “very good.”
The prison was praised for tacking the supply and demand for drugs and incidents of self-harm had reduced by a third and care for prisoners in crisis was good
Prolific bike thief jailed after police recognise him on Facebook
A cyclist caught 43-year-old Karl Lee Cosnett in the act and took pictures of him and posted them online - where they were shared almost 30,000 times.
By Katie Butler 19 July, 2015
A prolific bicycle thief has been sent to prison thanks to a photograph a victim posted on Facebook which was shared almost 30,000 times.
Karl Lee Cosnett, of Chippenham Road, Ancoats, has a history of offences dating back to 1987 and tried his luck again at the entrance of Marks and Spencer at St Mary’s Gate last month.
But in his latest crime, his victim, Chris Di Mascio, helped to convict him - by uploading a picture of him taken just after he tried to steal his bike.
Prosecuting at Manchester Magistrates Court, Lynn Rogers, said: “At around 5.50pm on 25 June the man saw Cosnett stood next to his bike with a coat draped over it. He quickly went over to where his bike was locked but saw he had used pliers to cut through the wire lock.”
Mr Di Mascio challenged Cosnett but he started walking off so he took several pictures and later uploaded them to Facebook to warn others. A police officer then recognised the man from the snapshot on the social media site.
Ms Rogers added: “Officers went to his address and while there arresting him for the attempted theft, they found a bicycle that matched a description of a £300 bike that had been reported stolen from Charlotte Street in Manchester earlier this year.”
Cosnett, 43, was then arrested. He pleaded guilty to the charges of theft and attempted theft of the bicycles at Manchester Magistrates Court.
Cosnett also pleased guilty to smashing the back window of a car on Pigeon Street in February to swipe a British Airways hat box - which included an air hostess’ hat and make up.
He also pleased guilty to possession of amphetamines and cannabis, along with the theft of bicycle lights and roaming around in enclosed premises on Ducie Street, in February
He has 44 convictions for 87 offences that date back to 1987 - and include burglary, theft from motor vehicles and thefts of bicycles.
During sentence, District Judge Anthony Carr told Cosnett - who appeared via videolink - “You are a man with an appalling record spanning decades. You have a specialism in stealing from cars and stealing bicycles.
“The attempted theft of the man’s bicycle was blatant and brazen and you had clearly gone there to steal other people’s property.”
He was sentenced to 40 weeks in prison, and ordered to pay an £80 victim surcharge and £180 criminal court charge on his release.
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| Step inside Dale Street magistrates' court and follow in the footsteps of petty thieves and notorious gangsters|
Take a tour of the historic Liverpool city centre courthouse
By Joe Thomas 19 Jul, 2015
For more than 150 years notorious gangsters, petty thieves and falsely accused defendants have stood in the dock at Liverpool city magistrates’ court.
Now those boxes stand permanently vacant following the closure of the courthouse last month.
But with the Dale Street building now empty the ECHO is able to bring you exclusive pictures from inside - something that could have landed you a night in the cells at any other point since the 1850s.
The government, which has moved its magistrates operation to the Queen Elizabeth II courts on Derby Square, has now left the court building and hopes to sell it for around £2m. Everyone has departed apart from security guards.
Michael Gove has a vision for reforming prisons – and justice
The new justice secretary has made a bold and challenging speech on the shortcomings of the criminal justice system.
By Will Hutton 19 July, 2015
what has happened to Britain’s criminal justice system over the past five years is a disgrace. Universal access to justice is the hallmark not only of a just society, but also a prosperous one. The indivisibility and universality of the rule of law is the precondition for order, trust and social association on which all else is built. Equally, punishment must be proportionate and fair and those who are incarcerated must have the prospect of atonement and rehabilitation. As Churchill once famously said, the “treatment of crime and criminals is one of the most unfailing tests of the civilisation of a country… there is treasure if only you can find it in the heart of every person”. Rehabilitation must be at the heart of the prison experience.
Britain fails to meet these standards. Justice is increasingly the preserve of the rich who can pay the hourly rates of our top barristers and solicitors, while the mass of the population, now ineligible for dramatically cut legal aid, has to accept multiple injustices because redress is too slow and expensive.
The court system creaks. Its waste and inefficiency are notorious. The Crown Prosecution Service and Serious Fraud Office are embarrassingly under-resourced and ineffective. Prisons are so overcrowded and cells so filthy that many have become places of “violence, squalor and idleness” in the words of the departing chief inspector of prisons, Nick Hardwick.
In any single week, there are four or five deaths, 300 assaults and 70 assaults on prison officers, of which nine are serious. The rehabilitation revolution the government promised in 2010 has not even begun, says Hardwick. It is an across-the-board disaster, a standing reproach to what Britain has become.
In effective political hands, all this could have profoundly embarrassed the government. Carelessness about criminal justice is first cousin to carelessness about social justice – they spring from the same libertarian philosophy. The priority is not justice and the public infrastructure to support it, in which virtue is achieved by collective effort. Rather, virtue is the result of unalloyed private endeavour and justice should be paid for – except in extreme need – by individuals. The interdependence between publicly provided justice and economic and social dynamism is flatly denied. Any one of Labour’s leadership candidates, if they had chosen, could have opened all this up to telling effect.
| Man facing trial for attempted murder of schoolboys is found dead in cell at Belmarsh prison
homeless man set to stand trial for the attempted murder of two schoolboys has been found dead in his cell at London's Belmarsh prison.
by Sebastian Mann 19 July 2015
Richard Walsh, 43, was accused of stabbing a 12-year-old and a 13-year-old in a street attack in Havant, Hampshire, last month.
Following a court appearance in June he was remanded in custody at the prison in Thamesmead in south east London.
Jail staff found Walsh unresponsive in his cell this morning, with staff and paramedics battling to save his life before he was sadly pronounced dead.
Met Police and their secret racist abuse of gipsies on Facebook
Scotland Yard investigate private group after alarm was raised by some members.
By Chris Greenwood 20 July, 2015
Police used a secret online forum to make offensive comments about ‘pikeys’, it was claimed last night.
Scotland Yard is investigating reports that a private Facebook group, called ‘I’ve Met The Met’, was used to exchange racist views about travellers.
Anti-corruption officials were called in after some of the 3,000 members, who include serving and retired officers, raised the alarm.
Among the comments was a ‘joke’ about police being told to remove their shoes when entering a traveller’s caravan.
One contributor said: ‘Ha ha ha that’s only so they can nick them easier’.
Another user wrote: ‘I never knew a pikey could be offended.
‘I thought they were devoid of all normal feelings and thoughts ... just my opinion based on many years of dealing with these despicable people.’
The Equality and Human Rights Commission said it had received a similar complaint about the Facebook group and was ‘in discussion’ with force bosses.
The Traveller Movement charity said the comments suggest a ‘canteen culture of racism towards gipsies and travellers’.
its leader, Yvonne MacNamara, said: ‘The fact that they are potentially made by serving and retired police officers gives us no confidence at all in the Metropolitan Police’s ability to both police these communities and to attract and protect its own staff who are from gipsy and traveller backgrounds.
‘We believe that the Met must set up an internal review to look into the all-too common assumptions that all gipsies and travellers are criminals, and that they do not deserve the same quality of service and policing as any other members of our society.’
Meanwhile the Gypsy Roma Traveller Police Association – which represents officers from these backgrounds – said the alleged comments were a ‘sad indictment of the police service’.
Chairman Jim Davies added: ‘Racism towards gipsies and travellers is endemic and is part of police culture. It has been allowed to fester and spread unchallenged for years.’
It is not the first time the ‘I’ve Met The Met’ publicity campaign has been linked to controversy.
Two Scotland Yard officers faced disciplinary action during the London Olympics after attaching a sticker bearing the phrase to the van of another police force. The latest allegations are an embarrassment for Met Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe.
Prison education must be 'overhauled', Michael Gove says
Education in prisons must be overhauled to reduce re-offending and make prisoners more employable, the justice secretary has said.
By BBC news 17 July, 2015
Michael Gove suggested "earned release" for inmates in England and Wales who work hard and gain qualifications.
Prison officers said they had heard similar "rhetoric" before and questioned how the plans would work.
Labour said it had long argued for better prison education, but detention conditions also needed improving.
Mr Gove also spoke about closing "ageing and ineffective" prisons and giving more powers to governors - citing Pentonville in London, which inspectors recently found was overcrowded and where most inmates felt unsafe, as "the most dramatic example of failure".
But in his first major speech since being appointed justice secretary in May, Mr Gove said there were "technical and complex policy questions" about how change should be implemented.
Speaking at the Prisoner Learning Alliance, Mr Gove, a former education secretary, called for an end to the "idleness and futility" of prison life.
The proposals could be piloted first or introduced in a more radical way, he said.
If prisons moved to a system of "earned release", it would be a major change from the current policy under which most prisoners are automatically released on licence at the halfway point of their sentence.
The prison problems Michael Gove faces are the same as his predecessor, Chris Grayling - overcrowding, rising violence and drug-taking - but his tone is markedly different.
Mr Gove referred to St Matthew's Gospel and quoted Churchill as he spoke of the need to transform the "soul" of prisoners through rehabilitation.
He believes education is the key.
But his plans - more control to governors over education provision and "earned release" for offenders who gain skills and qualifications - are far from fully formed.
Civil servants are working on the proposals, perhaps with a pilot scheme at some point. Letting inmates out early if they become trained or qualified would be politically very tricky for a Conservative justice secretary, so Mr Gove will want to ensure it isn't seen as a soft option or a mechanism simply to reduce the prison population.
Prison officers step in to help Greenock OAP over garden row
THOUGHTFUL prison officers have come to the rescue of a Greenock pensioner who had issued a desperate plea for help to cut back her jungle-like garden.
By Greenock Telegraph 17 July, 2015
Eighty-one-year-old Margaret McCreadie was left ‘worried sick’ that enforcement action would be taken against her because her 70ft long hilly garden had grown out of control.
After reading about her plight in the Telegraph last week, big-hearted prison officer Mark Thomson decided he had to do something to help.
He said: “When I read Margaret’s story in the Tele, I thought it was a shame and wanted to do something to help.
“I went straight round to her door and said I could do it myself or gather a group of prison officers together to come down and help as it would be a good deed for the community.
“The prison governor Willie Stuart was very supportive of the idea and was more than happy for us to hire a van and use the jail’s gardening equipment as it’s a big job.
“We’re going to cut the garden right back to the bare bones so that Margaret doesn’t have to worry about it for a long time.”
Margaret says the Gateside jail staff’s kindness has restored her faith in humanity.
She smiled: “It’s very good of them.
“Mark was the first person to contact me to offer help.
“I’m very grateful.
“A lot of people contacted me to offer their assistance, which was lovely.
“I also want to thank the young boy who came down and worked hard on the garden.”
The Tele reported last week how Margaret was left worried sick when someone reported her to Inverclyde Council regarding the state of her garden.
The local authority’s head of environmental and commercial services wrote to her saying that it had been brought to his attention that vegetation at the front of the property was overhanging the public footway.
The letter left Margaret fearing she could end up in trouble.
Housing association River Clyde Homes insisted it couldn’t help Margaret to maintain her garden in Greenock’s Rankin Street because she owns her home and is solely responsible for it.
Margaret says she is hugely relieved that the problem has been taken care of.
She said: “It’s impossible for me to do the garden myself, and it would cost me a fortune
| Justice Secretary suggests Pentonville prison could close
The Justice Secretary Michael Gove has suggested that prisons that were built in Victorian times such as Pentonville could be closed.
by ITV NEWS 17 July 2015
In a speech given at the Prisoners Learning Alliance, he highlighted the problems at the Islington jail which were listed in a report by the Chief Inspector of Prisons.
Mr Gove, who took over the Justice post in May, said he was still getting into the role. But he suggested closing down the Victorian prisons and selling off the estate could provide a solution.
| "A Victorian institution opened in 1842 which is supposed to hold 900 offenders now houses 1300. Not only are measures to reduce drug-taking among prisoners admitted with an addiction unsuccessful overall, nearly one in ten previously clean prisoners reported that they acquired a drug habit while in Pentonville.|
"That’s why I think we have to consider closing down the ageing and ineffective Victorian prisons in our major cities, reducing the crowding and ending the inefficiencies which blight the lives of everyone in them and building new prisons which embody higher standards in every way they operate. The money which could be raised from selling off inner city sites for development would be significant. It could be re-invested in a modern prison estate where prisoners do not have to share overcrowded accommodation but also where the dark corners that facilitate bullying, drug-taking and violence could increasingly be designed out."
– MICHAEL GOVE MP, JUSTICE SECRETARY
Michael Gove: Court hearings 'could be held in town halls or hotel suites to cut costs'
Magistrates’ courts could meet in town halls or hotel suites to cut costs, Justice Secretary Michael Gove has suggested.
By Michael Segalov 15 July, 2015
Mr Gove confirmed there will be a new programme of court closures – with hearings moved to other buildings to save cash.
“There are public buildings in all our constituencies which could be used by the justice system at particular points,” he told MPs at the Justice Select Committee. “There is no intrinsic reason why magistrates should not sit, if it is thought appropriate, in a council chamber.”
Michael Gove eyes Pentonville sale under 'new for old' prison policy
Justice secretary signals start of major programme of selling off ‘ageing and ineffective Victorian prisons’ in large cities to fund more modern jails.
By Alan Travis 17 July, 2015
Michael Gove has vowed to close down “ageing and ineffective” Victorian jails and sell off their sites to fund new buildings to replace them, in his first major speech on prisons policy.
The justice secretary firmly put north London’s Pentonville prison in the frame for the first major closure and sell-off under a “new for old” prisons policy, by citing it as the “most conspicuous” and “most dramatic example of failure within the prison estate”.
He said a recent chief inspector’s report said the jail, which opened in 1842 and is supposed to hold 900 prisoners but now houses 1,300, had bloodstained walls, piles of rubbish and food waste, increasing levels of violence, and widespread drug-taking.
The “new for old” policy has been operated on a small scale in recent years with the sale of small prisons in Lancaster and elsewhere, but the justice secretary’s commitment could see a major programme getting under way. Wandsworth prison in south London is also expected to be among the early candidates.
“We have to consider closing down the ageing and ineffective Victorian prisons in our major cities, reducing the crowding and ending the inefficiences which blight the lives of everyone in them and building new prisons which embody higher standards in every way they operate,” said Gove in a speech to the Prisoner Learning Alliance.
“The money which could be raised from selling off inner-city sites for development would be significant. It could be reinvested in a modern prison estate where prisoners do not have to share overcrowded accommodation but also where the dark corners that facilitate bullying, drug-taking and violence could be increasingly designed out,” he said.
The justice secretary said the new buildings could be used to significantly improve the security and safety of prisons.
He described Pentonville as “the most dramatic example of failure within the prison estate, but its problems, while more acute than anywhere else, are very far from unique”.
Also in his speech, Gove confirmed he was considering an “earned release scheme” under which hard-working inmates who gain educational qualifications while inside could earn an earlier release date.
Gove has asked his department to look at how a system of earned release could operate in detail. It is likely to apply to most of the 86,000 prisoners who are serving fixed-term sentences and are currently automatically released when they reach the halfway point.
Gove is understood to be looking at bringing automatic release to an end, and taking achievements such as education and work into account to determine a prisoner’s actual release date. One option being examined is for prisoners who qualify to leave prison earlier, but complete their sentence under a home curfew monitored by an electronic tag.
The Conservatives first floated the idea of earned release in 2008 as an alternative to automatic release at the halfway point of a prison term, but estimated it might need an extra 5,000 prison places to accommodate those who failed to respond to the incentive.
| Man, 22, in court accused of prison guard murder|
A 22-year-old man accused of murdering a custody officer was surrounded by guards at top security Belmarsh Prison when he made his first appearance at the Old Bailey by video link
By Court Reporter 14 July, 2015
Humphrey Burke is accused of attacking 54-year-old Serco employee Lorraine Barwell, of Harold Wood, at Blackfriars Crown Court on the afternoon of Monday June 29. Mrs Barwell was set upon as she escorted a prisoner between the court and a waiting van which was parked inside the court yard. She died of her injuries in hospital two days later, on Wednesday July 1. A post-mortem examination found the cause to be blunt force trauma to the head. Burke, who was last week charged with her murder, appeared subdued during the brief hearing before the Recorder of London, Nicholas Hilliard QC. Wearing a grey tracksuit and sporting an unkempt dark beard, he spoke only to confirm his name as he slumped in a chair flanked by prison officers on both sides.
The Guardian view on prisons in England and Wales: dangerous and inefficient
The last report – absolutely the last – from Nick Hardwick, who has not had his contract renewed as chief inspector of prisons in England and Wales, reveals a national scandal.
By The Guardian 14 July, 2015
Taking up his job in 2010 just as Ken Clarke, the first Conservative justice secretary, promised a rehabilitation revolution, Mr Hardwick has charted not a revolution but an inexorable decline in all the indicators by which healthy prisons are measured.
Attacks by prisoners on each other and on prison officers are up, deaths in prison up, suicides up, serious assaults up, overcrowding up.
About the only things that are falling are the number of prison officers and the amount of purposeful activity done by prisoners.
This is no way to run a prison service, and the people who work in it know that.
If the new justice secretary, Michael Gove, is as interested in reform as he has indicated, here surely is the place to start.
On Monday, Mr Gove announced that not only can prisoners after all receive books from family and friends following the high court ruling against a ban imposed by his predecessor Chris Grayling, but they could keep up to 12 in their cell.
Mr Gove said his decision was influenced by the US conservative social policy guru Arthur Brooks, of the American Enterprise Institute thinktank.
In a refreshing change from the usual language of punishment, he quoted Mr Brooks’ view that all human beings should be seen as assets, not liabilities.
Other voices from the American right are said to be influencing Mr Gove.
One libertarian thinktank, Right on Crime, argues against long prison sentences and in favour of innovative rehabilitation solutions in the name of efficiency and cost-effectiveness.
It highlights success stories such as a Texas partnership between local employers and prisoners due for release, and another scheme that automatically closes public access to juvenile criminal records, making it more likely that they find work.
Reform in the US has been driven by the soaring cost of prisons in a country where more people are locked up than anywhere else on Earth.
States such as California, Texas and New York have all cut prison numbers and spending without a corresponding increase in crime.
A U S T R A L I A
Never to be released prisoners get soft serve in jails
from Corrective Services boss Peter Severin who jet sets to Mexico and Colorado to brainstorm jail policy.
By news.com.au 16 July, 2015
THE NSW prisons chief, whose time at the top has seen the cushy reclassification of never-to-be released prisoners, has travelled to exotic international conferences on jails.
Corrective Services boss Peter Severin has jetted at NSW taxpayer expense to conferences in Mexico, Colorado and Namibia to discuss issues such as the “The Victory of the Soul” with prison chiefs around the world.
But under his watch in NSW some of the state’s most infamous killers have been granted prison privileges while “culturally and linguistically diverse” inmates have been surveyed to see what they want on the menu.
Corrective Services Minister David Elliott has already ordered Mr Severin to overrule a Serious Offenders Review Panel recommendation to give schoolgirl Ebony Simpson’s killer Andrew Garforth a softer ride in jail.
“It is essential that any reclassification of prisoners reflects community expectations,” Mr Elliott said. Yesterday it emerged Kevin Crump, one of the brutal killers of young mum Virginia Morse, Michael Murphy, one of model Anita Cobby’s killers, and Daryl Suckling, who raped and murdered Jodie Larcombe, have been reclassified from A to B, which grants them privileges in jail.
Howard Brown, vice-president of the Victims of Crime Assistance League, said: “I can’t see any value at all from people like this going on any kind of rehabilitation program. The only way they are leaving prison is in a pine box.
“We have limited resources so we are far better off putting those slots to prisoners who are being released into the community. We need to give them every opportunity not to reoffend.’’
Mr Severin, who studied social work at university in Germany before joining the prison system, has said previously: “I firmly believe there are some people who should never be released.”
But he added: “We need to manage a system that doesn’t turn off every light at the end of the tunnel.”
He has drawn his enlightened approach to prisons from his position as vice-president of the International Corrections and Prisons Association, which has addressed issues such as “The Management of Dual Gender Prisons” and “The Victory of the Soul” at its international conferences. His predecessor Ron Woodham never took a foreign trip in his time as commissioner, but just weeks after replacing him in 2012 Mr Severin attended a conference in Mexico.
A R C H I V E S
1990 murder of Prison 'civilian trades officer' in Norwich Prison
in 2007 an APPLICATION BY DARREN RALPH BLANCHFLOWER FOR THE REVIEW OF A MINIMUM TERM
Report held at National Archives Date: 19/10/2007
8. “Defendant was a prisoner in Norwich Prison serving 3½ years for robbery (imposed 6 March 1990 at Norwich Crown Court), his first offence. On 23 May 1990 he attacked a civilian trades officer with a hammer and bludgeoned him to death. The defendant had been reprimanded by the deceased very shortly before for bad work, he was seen to be brooding over this moments before the attack. His case at interview was that the deceased had been goading him over a period. This seems contrary to reports about the deceased, a kindly man liked by prisoners and staff.”
9. To this brief summary it can properly be added that Mr Blanchflower’s attack on the deceased was premeditated. This is apparent from the psychiatric evidence, which refers in turn to a record of Mr Blanchflower’s admissions in the course of police interviews. He had developed a dislike for the deceased and had obtained and secreted a hammer with the intention of attacking him with it. There was evidence that Mr Blanchflower was keen to acquire a fearsome reputation for violence within the prison.
10. There were two psychiatric reports before the court, indicating that Mr Blanchflower had a psychopathic personality and an abnormality of mind, but the psychiatrists were agreed that this was not the cause of his actions. He had been diagnosed with grand mal epilepsy but there was no attack at the relevant time.
11. The comments of the trial judge on the case generally and on the factors to be taken into account by the Home Secretary when considering release were as follows: “The defendant seems to have been something of a but (sic) to his fellow inmates in the early days of his sentence. There may be a question of how much of his reported fascination with violence was a pose, though the doctors accept his account (repeated to them) at face value. He is reported as having said that one day he will kill: if he meant it when he said it he must remain a significant threat. One feels that his true medical condition will be better understood before release comes to be considered. One doctor advises early consideration of transfer to a Special Hospital.”
12. Ian Kennedy J expressed his view that the actual length of detention necessary to meet the requirements of retribution and general deterrence for the offence was 15 years.
13. The Lord Chief Justice, Lord Lane, commented : “I would suggest a period of 12 years starting at the conclusion of his sentence for robbery. This will, I imagine, have much the same result as the 15 years suggested by the trial judge. This is another case where the risk factor may be paramount”
14. On 1 June 1994, the Home Office disclosed the recommendations of the trial judge and the Lord Chief Justice to Mr Blanchflower. They informed him that the Secretary of State had given careful consideration to the case, including the comments of the judiciary. The Secretary of State had particular regard to the statement of the then Home Secretary in November 1983 which indicated that murderers of police and prison officers would in future be detained for at least 20 years, and he set a tariff of 20 years accordingly.
15. Mr Blanchflower was informed that the Secretary of State was now willing to consider any written representations as to the period to be served to satisfy the requirements of retribution and deterrence.
16. There is no record of any representations being made at that time, but on 15 May 1999 the Home Office wrote to Merry & Co, solicitors then acting for Mr Blanchflower, in the following terms:
“May I draw your attention to the statement made by the then Home Secretary in 1983, which says that murderers of prison officers can normally expect to serve at least 20 years in custody? While it appears from the papers available to us that the victim in this case was not a prison officer, he was nonetheless a member of the prison staff and it is clear that similar considerations apply. It may be helpful if I quote the comments of the Secretary of State when he set Mr Blanchflower’s tariff at 20 years. He wrote “I think 20 years is the right tariff for murdering a prison employee.” I should point out that the Secretary of State’s discretion in setting tariffs is not limited by the statement, and indeed the following sentence in the statement is: “Other murders outside these categories, may merit no less punishment to mark the seriousness of the offence.”
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Why walking into jail fills many prison service colleagues with dread
Cuts and staff shortages have put prison governors under immense strain. The new justice secretary Michael Gove has to reduce prisoner numbers.
By Mark Icke 21 Jul, 2015
Over the last 12 months or so, just walking into a prison fills many of my colleagues with anxiety and dread. The majority of prison officers and governors are dedicated, conscientious, professionals who offer the public real value for money but the pressure over the last four years has put significant strain on operational stability.
Critical staff shortages due to the inability to recruit (cheaper) replacements for the large numbers of prison officers who took voluntary early departure over the last four years means we have reluctantly had to introduce restricted regimes for inmates in many prisons. So it is unsurprising that last week’s annual report by Nick Hardwick, chief inspector of prisons, concluded that prisons were at their worst level for 10 years.
We have a prison population which is bigger, serving longer sentences, more prone to violence, and increasingly driven by gang affiliations. Use of legal highs, which we cannot yet test for, have destabilised the system further.
Our biggest problems are the rise in self-inflicted deaths in custody, more serious assaults and hostage taking and prisoners barricading themselves in. It is a problem facing the whole prison system, not just older public sector jails.
Many governors and senior staff are working even longer hours, balancing competing risks around safety, decency and security. They have performed heroically in coping with such a fast pace of reform. What’s needed now is understanding and support, not criticism and more pressure.
The new justice secretary, Michael Gove, has a very different vision for prisons from his predecessor. In a speech last week, he said he liked the idea of earned early release for prisoners, greater autonomy for the best-performing prisons, such as that enjoyed by academy schools and foundation trust hospitals, and using the proceeds of selling off Victorian prisons to build better-designed jails whose architecture would favour rehabilitation and learning and where drug-taking would be easier to control.
If Gove really wants to make a difference, he should abolish sentences of under 12 months: community punishments are much more effective. Scrapping these sentences would free up vital space and would also allow prison resources to focus more on preventing recidivism, by improving skills, tackling addiction and treating ill health.
Why make more sweeping changes, when we haven’t yet implemented the previous reforms? The coalition government promised not to privatise prisons and instead started giving jails a pot of money based on prisoner and staff numbers. The early signs were that it was working well. We worry that Gove’s proposals for more autonomy could introduce payment by results and too much competition into prisons.
We are not opposed to modernising the prison estate but hope that – like at newly built Wrexham – the public sector will continue to run them and that Gove won’t use rebuilding as an excuse to privatise.
It is vital that we do not face more structural reforms or further budget cuts. The only scope for further, significant savings in the short to medium term is to reduce the prison population, protecting the investment in rehabilitation and to potentially increase it.
We cannot go on thinking we can imprison our way to a safer society. Not only is it poor value for money, it also fails to recognise that there are better and more cost-effective ways to protect the public and reduce reoffending.
Prison smoking ban could cause 'stability issues'
Ministers are drawing up plans to convert the first jails to be smoke-free next year
By Danny Shaw 22 July, 2015
PGA president Andrea Albutt "cautiously" welcomed the move but said it must be done in a "safe and staged" way as 80% of prisoners smoked.
The Ministry of Justice said safety and security remained its "top" priorities.
The government intends to ban smoking in all 136 prisons in England and Wales to reduce health risks - it is currently allowed only in prison cells and exercise yards.
The move follows a series of legal challenges by prison officers and inmates who have complained about the effects of passive smoking.
Mrs Albutt, who has governed four prisons, most recently Bristol, is heading a team that will be implementing the changes.
The privately run Parc Prison, in south Wales, is expected to go smoke-free next year, and publicly-run jails in Wales and south-west England are likely to follow.
Speaking on behalf of the Prison Governors Association, Mrs Albutt said the organisation agreed with the ban but said it had to be done in a managed and gradual way to avoid unrest, as about 80% of prisoners were smokers.
Stopping them smoking could result in "stability issues", she told BBC News, in her first interview since becoming the organisation's president on an interim basis.
She added that banning tobacco would create "potential problems" because it risked turning it into an illicit item to be smuggled in and traded by prisoners as "currency".
Joe Simpson, assistant general secretary for the Prison Officers Association, compared the effects of passive smoking on prison officers with the risks posed to bar workers before smoking in pubs was banned.
"All we are asking is for something that will help protect our members," he said.
A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: "We are continuing to consider how to reduce the prevalence of smoking across the prison estate but the
Prisons “in worst state for ten years”
All four assessed outcomes - safety, respect, purposeful activity and resettlement - saw a sharp fall in positive reports during 2014/15, taking the percentage of good or reasonably good outcomes to its lowest point since 2005
By Sussex Express 21 July, 2015
Of the 44 Category B prisons for adult males, including HMP Lewes, 18 saw a decline in safety, with the report stating: “You were more likely to die in prison than five years ago. More prisoners were murdered, killed themselves, self-harmed and were victims of assaults than five years ago. There were more serious assaults and the number of assaults and serious assaults against staff also rose.
“The number of self-harm incidents involving male prisoners has risen steadily over the last five years and the 18,995 incidents in the year ending December 2014 was almost a third higher than the year to December 2010.
“Since 2010, assault incidents have risen by 13 per cent to 16,196, and the increase is accelerating. There were 10 per cent more assault incidents in 2014 than in 2013.
“The number of serious assaults has also risen – by 55 per cent over the last five years and by 35 per cent in the last year. Assaults on staff have risen sharply: there were 3,637 in 2014, an increase of 28 per cent on 2010 and 11 per cent on 2013. Serious assaults on staff have risen from 302 in 2010, to 359 in 2013 and 477 in 2014, an increase of 58 per cent overall and 33 per cent since last year.”
Chief prison inspector, Nick Hardwick, said: “There are no simple explanations for the decline in safety. More prisoners are serving long sentences for serious offences. The proportion of prisoners serving sentences for sexual offences rose. The proportion serving sentences for violence against the person rose.
“ More recently, in 2014–15, the rapid increase in the availability of new psychoactive substances (new drugs such as ‘Spice’ and ‘Black Mamba’ that are developed or chosen to mimic the effects of illegal drugs such as cannabis, heroin or amphetamines and may have unpredictable and life-threatening effects) has had a severe impact and has led to debt and associated violence.
“However, these factors do not sufficiently explain the overall decline in safety. It remains my view that staff shortages, overcrowding and the wider policy changes have had a significant impact on prison safety.”
Calls to stop housing killers in open prisons after North Shields man escaped
North Shields manslaughter convict Michael Robson was on the run for 72 hours after leaving South Yorkshire jail where he is serving life sentence.
By Sophie Doughty 20 July, 2015
Calls are today being made to stop housing dangerous criminals in open prisons after a Tyneside killer absconded from jail.
Dangerman Michael Robson, who stabbed his friend to death 20 years ago, was on the run for 72 hours last week after walking out of Hatfield Prison near Doncaster on Thursday
The 44-year-old, from North Shields, was serving a life sentence for the manslaughter of Robert ‘Skinny’ Williamson who he stabbed to death on the town’s Meadowell estate in 1995.
Robson was detained by police in West Yorkshire on Sunday afternoon, three days after he left HMP Hatfield and has since been returned to custody, although it is understood he will not return to an open prison.
However, Robson’s disappearance has prompted fresh calls for a review of security at the category D prison, and raised questions about whether such violent offenders should be housed in open jails.
David Hines, founder of the National Victims’ Association, whose daughter, Marie, 22, was killed in 1992, said this was just another example of how the UK justice system is weighted in favour of offenders, and not those that have lost loved ones.
“I’m extremely angry at the criminal justice system,” he said. “This is happening time and time again. They are just walking out and no one bats an eyelid and nobody takes responsibility. The so-called ‘experts’ get it wrong time and time again. And the very fact that they get into these open prisons is just another example of the offenders’ needs being put before the victims’ families.”
Robson, whose brother Dale was killed in the car crash that sparked the Meadowell riots in 1991, was high on a on a cocktail of drink and drugs when he killed 25-year-old Mr Williamson, with a single knife blow to the stomach, following a row between the pals on Avon Drive, in June 1995.
Robson, who was 24 at the time, then turned on his 27-year-old sister and slashed her face, before going on the run.
The knife sliced across one of Lisa’s cheeks, severed her nose and almost plunged into her eye. But thanks to delicate facial surgery by doctors at Newcastle General Hospital she made an almost complete recovery.
Robson was arrested two weeks later after armed police surrounded a house in Bridge Road South, following a 24-hour surveillance operation.
It was claimed Robson had been suffering a mental disorder triggered by depression and grief at the loss of four close members of his family, including Dale.
| Pluto will always beat prisons when it comes to tax money|
Stephen Hawking’s right: we explore because we’re human. But those who shout the loudest will get the most money, regardless of the social dividend
By Simon Jenkins 16 July, 2015
the two headlines were next to each other. “Prisons worst for 10 years”, and “Snow on Pluto”. The juxtaposition may seem unfair, but how to react? Presumably to the first with anger, and the second with excitement. Compared with the remorseless grime of humans, astronomy offered an escape, a cause for joy, a vision of futurity. Stephen Hawking congratulated the Pluto team. “We explore because we are human beings,” he said, “and we want to know.”
The trouble is that those baffled by Britain’s obsession with incarceration might say the same. Each week we tip more people into prison and treat them a little worse. We know it is a waste and doesn’t work, but don’t know why or what to do about it.
Criminologists might cry that they too are human and have questions for answering. All they claim is that these answers might deliver a social dividend out of all proportion to snow on Pluto. The conundrums of crime and punishment have baffled society’s finest minds for centuries. Few millions are available to research them.
Prisons need to be places of learning says Ann Widdecombe
MICHAEL Gove, the Justice Secretary, has promised more emphasis on education in prisons.
By Ann Widdecombe 21 July, 2015
He is only too right but he is saying no more than a succession of Home Secretaries and frustrated prisons ministers has said.
The test is whether he can deliver. As well I know the first objection which arises is money but in truth more prison education could be delivered more cheaply if extensive use was made of volunteering instead of contracts with external providers who focus on targets.
Up to 75 per cent of those who end up in Her Majesty’s prisons are illiterate and innumerate or if they are not quite that they are nearly so.
They have been excluded from or truanted away vast tranches of their secondary education, come from disordered homes and have no idea what a structured day looks like.
It is madness to allow them to be idle and then to open up the prison gates at the end of their sentence and solemnly bid them lead an industrious and law-abiding life.
Prisoners need work, education and vocational training.
They are rarely studying for A level Physics, so volunteers should not be too hard to find.
As I said when I was Shadow Home Secretary, anybody entering the gates unable to read or write and staying for more than six months should leave the gates able to do so.
As for workshops they should be run as small businesses, keeping the profits for expansion. If that had been started in 1998 when I called for it, we would be well advanced by now.
The success of some prison work schemes demonstrates the potential for wider take-up. Convicted prisoners should be obliged to spend every weekday doing a full day’s work in either education or workshops or preferably in some combination of the two. It would be to the benefit of us all as rehabilitation means fewer victims and fewer sentences for the taxpayer to fund. Gove made a genuine impact as Secretary of State for Education. If he can do the same with prisons he will have achieved a revolution worthy of Elizabeth Fry.
a news report from M E X I C O
El Chapo escape: Seven prison officers charged over getaway of drug kingpin Joaquin Guzman
Guzman is wanted by U.S. authorities for a variety of criminal charges including cocaine smuggling and money laundering. He broke out of Mexico's top maximum security prison through a tunnel.
By Sam Webb 18 July, 2015
President Enrique Pena Nieto told the Mexican people he shared their anger and frustration at the bold escape.
He said: "We are not going to resolve this only with anger and filling ourselves with fury. The only way to reverse this is with a recapture."
He added that everyone involved in the escape would feel "the full weight of the law".
The government has fired two prison officials and the prison's warden so far
Guzman is wanted by U.S. authorities for a variety of criminal charges including cocaine smuggling and money laundering. He broke out of Mexico's top maximum security prison through a tunnel that surfaced right into his cell.
Mexico's government received an extradition request from the United States for Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman a couple of weeks before the drug lord's escape from prison last Saturday, a government spokesman said last night.
The failure to extradite him has been heavily criticised by the government's critics since the jail break.
Guzman's Sinaloa Cartel has smuggled billions of dollars worth of drugs into the United States and is blamed for thousands of deaths through addiction and gang violence.