Justice Secretary brings in new alert system for failing prisons

HM Inspectorate of Prisons now expected to bring most serious problems to the minister's attention

Her Majesty’s Prison Service has not enjoyed the easiest of times of late. With prison staff struggling with overcrowding, rising violence and drug use, inspectors’ reports have proved grim reading for several years.

Campaigners have called for wholesale prison reform. The government has decided to change the way it manages each crisis.

Justice Secretary David Lidington has now announced he will take more a stronger hand in tackling critical situations, telling the chief inspector of prisons to bring the most serious problems to his immediate attention.

Under the new “urgent notification protocol,” the Justice Secretary will be obliged to come up with an action plan within 28 days once a major issue is raised. Specialists will then make sure action is taken.

“A team of specialists will now respond when HM Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP) trigger urgent notification to urgently drive improvements and ensure that prisons are safe, secure and providing a regular regime,” Lidington explained.

We will expect swift and effective action to be taken in response

Peter Clarke, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Prisons, said: “Whenever the new process is invoked, we will expect swift and effective action to be taken in response.”

One of the country’s former Supreme Court justices, Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood, said recently that the nation’s prisons were now merely “warehousing” offenders rather than properly attempt rehabilitation.

The crossbench peer said overcrowding has left the nation’s prison estate “truly in crisis.”

The Big Issue’s founder Lord John Bird has long spoken of the problem of “warehousing” the poorest in society.

Bird wants government to focus on a prevention agenda, tackling poverty at its root to help stop social problems reoccurring over and over again. He has proposed a prevention unit in Whitehall working across health, education, social services, police and prisons.

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