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Prisoner Privileges

Volume 553: debated on Tuesday 13 November 2012

It is really important that we ensure that the public have confidence in the prison system, and it is crucial that they are assured that any privileges earned in prison are gained through hard work and appropriate behaviour. In the light of this, the Prisons Minister and I have immediately moved to start a review of the policy around the incentives scheme for prisoners. We need to be confident that the system of incentives has credibility with the public. There are important operational reasons for the original policy, but we need to be clear that the incentives are pitched at the right level.

Many of my constituents feel that some of the privileges provided in our prisons are far too soft on the inmates. How is my right hon. Friend preparing to reverse the tradition whereby many of our prison inmates have been left to pass their time in an enforced situation in which they are completely idle most of the day, with little or no meaningful activity?

First, I am quite prepared to make changes to the incentive regime in our prisons if it proves necessary to do so. I am absolutely clear that prisons should be places that rehabilitate, not places to which people have any desire to go back. It is equally important, however, that we have within our prisons proper processes to ensure that prisoners are trained and given work experience. One of the achievements of the current Government over the last few months is that we have seen a steady increase, under the stewardship of the previous Secretary of State, which the current ministerial team is now taking on, in the number of hours worked by prisoners in our prisons. That has got to be right.