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Home » England and Wales » The State of our Prisons: WALES Overcrowded. Understaffed. Underfunded.

The State of our Prisons: WALES Overcrowded. Understaffed. Underfunded.

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Mr David TC Davies (Twitter @DavidTCDavies), Conservative MP for Monmouth and chair of the Welsh Affairs Committee, has launched an inquiry into prison provision in Wales. At the moment, there are no facilities for women yet there are proposals for another “Titan” prison in South Wales at Baglan.

Let’s look briefly at the record

Faith Spear at desk colour 450px 

HMP Swansea, HMP Parc and HMP Cardiff rank amongst the worst prisons in the UK.

All have serious problems with prisoner-on-prisoner assaults, suicides, overcrowding and drugs. Here are some statistics:

Swansea: 80% of prisoners are in overcrowded cells. On arrival at the prison 53% have a drug problem and 32% have an alcohol problem.

Parc: this prison is ranked 111th place out of 117 in England and Wales. In 2017 there were 881 prisoner-on-prisoner assaults and 1451 incidents of self-harm.

Cardiff: 64.5% of prisoners are in overcrowded cells. There were 220 prisoner-on-prisoner assaults in 2017.

Usk/Prescoed: There is no full-time health care provision at either prison, concern by IMB of frequency of ‘lie downs’

If South Wales is serious about a new super prison it should first take a long look at what’s happened in North Wales:

Berwyn, the flagship of the MoJ which opened in February 2017.

Despite being Europe’s second biggest prison, with a capacity of more than 2,100, up to July of last year the £212m facility was less than a quarter full – with just over 500 inmates being catered for. By November there were 800 men.

Digging a little deeper, we find:

  • HMP Berwyn received 319 complaints from prisoners February to September 2017.
  • There were 219 complaints about the living quarters in the first seven months and 31 complaints about the quality of the food.
  • There were 4 complaints about prisoner-on-prisoner violence or assault compared to 50 lodged by prisoners alleging abuse or assault by prison officers.
  • Five of the alleged assaults were passed to North Wales Police for investigation, no action was taken over any of them.
  • Ministry of Justice revealed that 376 items were confiscated from prisoners between its opening in February and October last year.
  • 30 unspecified weapons, 56 items relating to drug paraphernalia and 34 mobile phones were among the items found in the possession of prisoners.
  • Other items confiscated include 21 debt list items, 66 lighters, 17 USBs, 26 vaping objects and 10 chargers.
  • There were also a number of items described as “miscellaneous” that were confiscated by prison officers.

 

So, whether prisons are new, old, Victorian, large, average size, have highly respected Governors or frankly those that should not be there (believe me I’ve met both!), it makes no difference as they all have similar issues to contend with:

Overcrowded. Understaffed. Underfunded.

To alleviate this prison crisis, we need fresh approaches in order to:

REDUCE the population: send fewer people to prison for non-violent offences

INCREASE the use of community orders

CUT the number of recalls

DEAL with indefinite sentences IPP’s convert to fixed length sentences?

FACILITATE prison release, therefore reduce self-inflicted deaths and reduce self-harm

REFORM prison estate and ensure all facilities are decent

SHARE best practice

INVEST in the long term and DELIVER in the short term

ADD more mental health facilities

The list can be endless and will depend on whether we see the purpose of prison as punishment, rehabilitation, both of these or a form of social cleansing.

Only last September, Lord McNally said in the House of Lords debate on prison overcrowding:

“We therefore have to understand the debate today which will be overwhelming in favour of sensible reform still has to pass that test of how we get a Secretary of State, a Prisons Minister and a Prime Minister who are willing to drive through reforms”

But that’s not the end of the story

We need a change in public attitude and that can only come from being informed and educated and not continually having issues covered up and hidden, the brushing under the carpet syndrome. There must be transparency.

We then need investment in life after prison in the provision of a home, a place of work, training or education and a reduction of the stigma in having a criminal record.

~

 

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4 Comments

  1. edmanpro says:

    An unfair portrayal of prisons in Wales methinks. By reeling off the absolute numbers of ills to be found in Welsh prisons there is an implication that they are much worse than the prison estate in England. The stats quoted demonstrate nothing.

    There are a number of positive initiatives to emerge from Welsh prisons, which this piece chooses to ignore. Take for instance the ground breaking and nationally acclaimed lead being taken at HMP Parc to introduce and now extend a scheme which allows inmates to be kept up to date with their child’s school progress: http://bbc.in/2nk4pR1

    What is the evidence for the bald statement ‘HMP Swansea, HMP Parc and HMP Cardiff rank amongst the worst prisons in the UK’, please? The evidence is not given in this article: if you wish to reel off percentages and stats to make a point then you have to make a comparative and per capita analysis with the prisons in England you imply are all doing so much better.

    • faithspear says:

      This is only part one, I am well aware of HMP Parc and the excellent work they do with families. My second blog on Wales will include positive initiatives. I have all the evidence for all I have written I don’t make things up! There is more that I know about prisons in Wales which believe me paint an even more bleak picture but I felt it was not necessary this time. I married into a Welsh family and I don’t write to try and please anyone.
      Thank you for your comments

  2. Alan Pritchard says:

    I can’t disagree with anything in this article. Clear concise and to the point.

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