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    UK Prison System Experiencing Crisis in Safety, Needs Reform - Justice Committee

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    MOSCOW (Sputnik) - The UK prison system is experiencing a crisis in safety, and the government lacks a comprehensive long-term plan to rehabilitate it, a report released on Thursday by the parliamentary justice committee revealed.

    "The prison system in England and Wales is enduring a crisis of safety and decency. ... Nothing [is being done ] to improve the appalling condition of much of the current prison estate, nor the prospect of offering a safe environment in which to rehabilitate offenders. Prisons will not become less violent without proper investment in purposeful activity for prisoners to support rehabilitation", the committee's chair, Bob Neill, said.

    According to the report, violence and self-harm were at alarmingly record-high levels and showed little promise of improving. The report said that the number of assaults on prison staff had increased 10 percent in a year, up to June, and rates of self-harm had increased 22 percent during the same period.

    The conditions of prisons throughout the UK were also an issue of concern, as the committee discovered a backlog of required maintenance work estimated at about 900 million pounds throughout the prison estate.

    Wormwood Scrubs Prison in west London
    © AFP 2019 / POOL/PAUL HACKETT
    Wormwood Scrubs Prison in west London

    The committee urged the UK government to develop a long-term plan to reform the prison system, which would include various initiatives to improve safety and rehabilitate prisoners to reduce recidivism rates.

    Additionally, the committee urged the government to move away from national contracts for prison facilities' management and to move toward smaller localised arrangements so that the governors could better manage the prisons and resources allocated to them.

    In late 2016, the UK government announced that it would be introducing a 1.3 billion pound (nearly $1.7 billion) investment to overhaul the United Kingdom's prison system over the next five years. The justice committee's enquiry aimed to review the extent to which the reforms had been implemented.

    In August, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a 2.5 billion pound program as part of his "crack-down" on crime that would create 10,000 additional prison places in the UK to create a modern, efficient prison system in the country.

    However, his announcement has faced criticism, with Policing Minister Kit Malthouse saying that prevention was more effective in reducing crime rates than the threat of prison, and former deputy prime minister Michael Heseltine criticising Johnson's move as "economic irresponsibility".

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    prisons, United Kingdom
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