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Volume 410: debated on Friday 19 September 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) what research his Department has commissioned into the effect of prison overcrowding on prisoners, what his evaluation is of this research; and if he will make a statement;[124597](2) what research his Department has commissioned on the effect of prison overcrowding on

(a) prison staff morale and (b) safety in prisons; and if he will make a statement.[124598]

Prison overcrowding is carefully managed within agreed operating capacities at each establishment. Operating capacities are the total number of prisoners that an establishment can hold taking into account control, security and the proper operation of the planned regime. Prison Service area managers determine such capacities on the basis of operational judgement and experience.No specific research projects have been undertaken into the effects of overcrowding on prisoners. However, we do keep under careful review the impact of population pressures, including overcrowding, on prisoners and staff in all prisons. There are a number of measures that can be used to assess the effects, for example, by the monitoring of regime performance, we know that population pressures are not yet significantly affecting the provision of rehabilitative schemes in prisons. It is inevitable though that at times of high population pressures, such provision may become disrupted.The Prison Service is taking steps to ensure the safety of prisoners and to mitigate against the effect of overcrowding.For example, The Prison Service is in the final year of a three-year safer custody programme to develop policies and practices to reduce prisoner suicide and self-harm in prisons. The programme includes a series of inter-related projects to improve pre-reception, reception and induction arrangements; inter-agency information exchange; prisoner care; detoxification; prisoner peer support, and the learning from investigations into deaths in custody. Over the next few months the outcome of this programme will be reviewed taking into account an evaluation of these projects and emerging research findings.The Prison Service also keeps under review the distance between where prisoners are accommodated and their home areas. The Prison Service aims to hold prisoners in establishments that provide the degree of security they require; are suitable to their gender, age and legal status; provide special facilities appropriate to prisoner needs or are near to their homes or the courts dealing with their cases. High population levels throughout the prison estate can lead to prisoners being transferred from their home area to establishments where there are vacancies. However, evidence shows that over the last two years there has been little change in the proportion of prisoners held either under or more than 50 miles from their home area.There is, however, no evidence to suggest that population pressures compromise public security. Since 1992–93, the number of escapes from prison has significantly fallen from 232 in 1992–93 to five in 2002–03. This is despite an increase of around 50 per cent. in the average prison population over the same period.The number of assaults across the Prison Service fell in 2001–02 in comparison to figures for 2000–01. There was an increase in assaults in 2002–03, but early indications are that there may be a slight decrease in the number of such incidents for 2003–04. Minimising the number of incidents is essential to the safe custody of prisoners and to the protection of prisoners and staff. While it is expected that the number of incidents will increase as the prison population rises, it should be recognised that the majority of incidents other than escapes, assaults and deaths are quickly and safely resolved through the use of good contingency planning and incident resolution procedures.While there has been no research into effects of overcrowding on Prison Service staff, an annual staff survey asks staff, as part of a range of questions, and as an indication of motivation about job satisfaction, whether they feel safe in their working environment. 67 per cent. of staff that responded to the 2002 survey said that they felt safe in their working environment. The survey itself does not directly research the effects of overcrowding on staff attitudes and morale. It cannot, therefore, identify whether the reasons for this response rate can be directly attributed to overcrowding.A copy of the surveys and their outcomes are held in the Library.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many foreign citizens were in prison in England and Wales in each year between 1992 and 2002; and if he will make a statement.[128607]

The numbers of foreign nationals in prisons in England and Wales on 30 June of each year between 1993 and 2002 are given in the table. Information for 1992 is not available.




To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department pursuant to his answer of 6 March 2003, Official Report, column 1243W, on prisons, on the basis of which scenario term projections set out in the Home Office Prison Population Brief, England and Wales: March 2003 (27/08/03) the forecast average population for 1995–2006 is calculated; and if he will make a statement.[129219]

The projected prison population for 2003–2006 in the answer given by my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, Central (Hilary Benn) on 6 March 2003, Official Report, Column 1244W, was scenario C published in Home Office Statistical Bulletin 14/02 in December 2002. It assumes that custody rates increase by 1.25 per cent. per year for males and 2.5 per cent. for females to 2005, with the increase halving thereafter.The legislative and other changes that are included in the projection are given as follows.

`Narrowing the Justice Clap'—one of the delivery targets for the Criminal Justice System.
Crime (Sentences) Act 1997—automatic life sentences for serious repeat offenders; minimum custodial sentences of three years for thire-time domestic burglars.
Crime and Disorder Act 1997— the recall of short sentence prisoners released on licence; the extension of secure remands.
Early release from Detention and Taining Orders (DT0s).
Intensive Supervision and Surveillance Programmes (ISSPs).
Added days—effect of a decision by the European Court of Human Rights.
The number of Immigration Act detainees.
Extension of Home Detention Curfew (HDC) —the maximum period of HDC to be increased to 90 days for those prisoners eligible from 16 December 2002.

An updated set of prison population projections was released on Tuesday 9 September in the April 2003 monthly brief. The projections take into account recent policy changes. such as the extension to HDC in July, and sentencing trends.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what action he is taking to ensure that staff in private prisons receive adequate training to enable them to deal with sophisticated prisoners.[129421]

The contracts for the operation of private sector prisons already require that staff are provided with adequate and appropriate training. Prisoner Custody Officers (PCOs) must therefore undertake an ongoing training programme, which is equivalent to that of public sector prison officers and is monitored by the on-site Correctional Services controller. Issues such as manipulation and conditioning by prisoners are covered in regular security awareness training courses.