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Prison Reform

Volume 597: debated on Tuesday 23 June 2015

We are very ambitious to reform prisons; to make them places of learning, training and work, and where healthy family relationships are kept strong, in order to change prisoners’ lives for the better, prevent people becoming victims and keep the public safe.

Long Lartin maximum security prison is in my constituency. In the context of any discussions on reform, does my hon. Friend agree that the safety and security of prison officers and prison workers is also of paramount importance?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right; it is wholly unacceptable that prison officers should be assaulted during the course of their duties. We have extensive violence-reduction work going on within the National Offender Management Service, in which I am taking an extremely close interest—I meet officials every month to track progress. We are absolutely determined to get on top of it so that prisons are safe for prison officers.

Northern Ireland prisons are brimful at the moment and struggling, and the prison officers are suffering as a result of the cuts. Will we look at reform of prisons across all the devolved Governments, working together to find a way forward, or will it be a case of “devolve and forget”?

As the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State has said, the Government are keen to talk with all the devolved Administrations in the UK, because we absolutely believe that we can learn from each other. Where we can, I think that we should help each other as well.

21. I am sure that the Minister recognises the importance of reforming rehabilitation in prisons. Does he share my concern about reports from chaplains across the prison estate that they are struggling to organise collective worship because of the number of hours that prisoners are spending behind bars in their cells? (900505)

My hon. Friend is absolutely right; collective or corporate worship is important and all prisoners should have access to it. We will do our absolute best to ensure that that happens. With the increasing number of prison officers, that should be increasingly possible.