Rory Stewart has pledged to quit if his 10 Prisons Project fails

The Prisons Minister has announced new £10m measures to crack down on drugs and violence inside 10 of the country’s most challenging institutions

Prisons Minister Rory Stewart has vowed to quit his role if his 10 Prisons Project can’t crack down on violence, mobile phones and drugs.

The £10million plans, announced today, will see £6m go towards introducing sniffer dogs and body scanners to uncover banned substances in Hull, Humber, Leeds and Lindholme.

The measures will also be introduced in Moorland, Wealstun, Nottingham, Ranby, Isis and Wormwood Scrubs alongside £3million to boost living conditions by repairing damaged infrastructure inside the prisons.

A further £1m has been promised to introduce training programmes and interventions for governors, with shared best practice and staff college model echoing the military.

The plans are expected to be up and running by the end of the year with “tangible results” promised in 21 months.

And they better hit the target for Stewart’s sake as he has put his job on the line.

The Penrith MP told the BBC: “I want you to judge me on those results and I will resign if I don’t succeed.”

Stewart added: “With more than 20,000 prison officers, 84,000 prisoners, and over 100 prisons, it is vital we set challenging standards so prisons are places where offenders can turn their lives around.

“No-one can hope to change an entire system overnight. But through these vital improvements to 10 prisons, we can set a course for the rest of the estate to follow – leading us to a system that truly rehabilitates, cuts reoffending and ultimately keeps the public safer.”

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The promise of further funding has been welcomed by prison organisations and charities – but have warned that more must be done to fix prisons.

Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said: “The governors of the 10 prisons will be pleased to have a little more money, wherever it comes from. But we have been here before. In 2016 Michael Gove set up six reform prisons that would pave the way for others to follow. That idea was quietly shelved by his successors with neither explanation nor evaluation.

“We are now promised ‘tangible’ results from a new version, so we need to be told what those results are, and who will be held to account for delivering them.

“If Rory Stewart makes good on his wish to see fewer people go to prison on short sentences he will achieve something fundamental on prison reform. But he must concentrate on the job only he can do—matching the demands on the system to the resource Parliament is prepared to make available for it.”

Frances Crook, chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, insisted that focusing on the facilities and not prisoner relations is not the way to boost security behind bars.

“Additional funding is always welcome for a public service that is as overburdened and under-resourced as the prison system, but the devil will be in the detail,” she said.

“Ultimately, the key to making prisons safer and more secure lies in reducing demand on the system. Bold steps to reduce the prison population would save lives, protect staff and prevent more people being swept into deeper currents of crime, violence and despair. Ministers have made a start in recent announcements and this is the route to their centres of excellence, not barbed wire and a bucket of paint.”

Image: Foreign and Commonwealth Office/Flickr