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NAO finds Prison Service "failing" to manage prison estate effectively - expert comment

Professor Azrini Wahidin from the Department of Sociology comments on today's National Audit Office (NAO) report, Improving the prison estate, which examines HMPPS’s approach to managing the maintenance of its prisons; assesses HMPPS’s performance in transforming its estate by building new prisons, selling unsuitable prisons and reorganising prison places, and examines the consequences of the decision to contract out facilities management.

She comments:

"The prison estate is a system in crisis. Although the HMPPS is committed to providing a safe, secure and a decent prison estate, its plans to achieve this are failing. Rates of violence on prison staff, inmates, deaths in custody, and self-harming are on an increase and many prisoners are being placed in unsafe and crowded conditions. These are some examples of the prison system showing symptoms of being under-resourced.

"Today's report by the National Audit Office Improving the Prison Estate’, clearly demonstrates that we are failing to help the very people we place in custody.

"Rather than engage with building more prisons the Government should invest resources in driving the rehabilitative agenda. It is only by reducing the number of people we send to prison, and investing in a prison estate that reflects the needs of people across the life-course, that we can begin to transform the prison landscape.

"The report fails to mention the fastest growing group within the prison estate - that of older offenders. Rather than build more prisons, let’s look at developing a strategy to create alternatives to imprisonment: otherwise we will only compound the current penal crisis. Prisons as a form of punishment should not be used routinely or be viewed as the social services' last resort."

7 February 2020

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