Prisoners face a harsher life in prison under Grayling’s shake-up
Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling has announced plans to reform privileges given to prisoners to make prison “an experience that is not one [prisoners] would want to repeat”.
The changes to the Incentives and Earned Privileges Scheme follow a review ordered by Grayling that sought to ensure life in prison was not seen as a “soft touch” and to counter criticism that prisons have become like “holiday camps”.
Under the new plans, set to be rolled out in both private and public prisons in England and Wales over the next six months, male prisoners will spend the first two weeks of their sentence at a new “entry” level, under which they will be required to wear prison uniforms and will have their access to cash restricted.
The changes also stop prisoners watching subscription television channels, which are available in some private prisons, and ban 18-rated movies. In addition, offenders will no longer have automatic access to gym equipment or daytime television.
“It is not right that some prisoners appear to be spending hours languishing in their cells and watching daytime television while the rest of the country goes out to work”, Grayling said.
“For too long, there has been an expectation that privileges are an automatic right”, the Justice Secretary said. “Prisoners need to earn privileges, not simply through the avoidance of bad behaviour but also by working, taking part in education or accepting the opportunities to rehabilitate themselves.”
The reforms, however have been criticised by Frances Crook, chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, who accused ministers of “pottering among the flowerbeds while ignoring the burning building before them”.
The chief executive said the real issue in prisons is the overcrowding, overstretched staff and squeezed budgets which have left prison workers “with little choice but to lock people up in their cells all day with nothing to do”.
Instead of introducing “bizarre new layers of redtape,” Crook suggested “Chris Grayling should look at taking our prison population to a manageable level – giving non-violent people community sentences so something productive can be done with those who remain in prison.”
The Labour party have also blasted the reforms saying they are not quite the “much-hyped rehabilitation revolution” the coalition promised. Grayling, however countered their criticism, saying the measure will actually help people “willing to turn their lives around”.