Skip to main content

Prisoner Rehabilitation

Volume 620: debated on Tuesday 24 January 2017

The Prison and Courts Reform Bill will for the first time set out in legislation that the reform of offenders, as well as the punishment of offenders, is a key purpose of prison. We need to make sure the whole system is focused on getting prisoners the education they need, and getting them off drugs and into jobs, so that we can reduce the £15 billion cost of reoffending.

I commend my right hon. Friend for the work she is doing in making prison governors more accountable. Will she set out the standards she is laying down so that prison improvements, and indeed offender outcomes, can be properly measured?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right that we need standards so that we can hold prison governors to account on what they are achieving. We are going to start introducing those standards from April 2017. They will include measures such as prison safety, progress made in English and maths, progress on getting offenders into employment and measuring the time out of cell in prisons.

The Secretary of State will know that good rehabilitation depends on at least two things: a good probation service providing aftercare when people leave prison, and good partnerships with the business community and employers, who will give people appropriate employment to steer them on their way. We have had some good experience at Reading and other jails. Will the Secretary of State back that kind of partnership?

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. We know that when somebody gets into work on leaving prison, they are much less likely to reoffend. We are going to launch an employment strategy later this year to encourage more employers like Timpsons, which already does a fantastic job, to participate. We also want to get the third sector involved in that rehabilitation programme. We will also announce reforms to the probation system, and one key focus will be on how the probation service gets people into employment.

Has there been progress on getting accurate job vacancy data from the Department for Work and Pensions in the areas to which prisoners will be released, to focus work preparation in prisons as effectively as possible?

We are working with the Department for Work and Pensions to get the data and make sure that they are much more linked up. By giving governors more power we will enable them to work with local employers in making sure that jobs are available. We are training people in prison and getting them into apprenticeships so that they can continue those apprenticeships and that work when they leave prison.

What steps are the Government taking to ensure that mental health problems are picked up as part of the rehabilitation process, not just to reduce suicide rates in prisons but to ensure that services are streamlined on release?

The hon. Lady is absolutely right that mental health is a major issue. We are giving governors more power over the commissioning of mental health services in prison. I also want to see better diagnosis of mental health issues earlier in the criminal justice system, when people appear in court and when they are on community sentences.

Will the Secretary of State set a high standard for employment projects in prisons along the lines of the experience in Padua? I am sure that she is aware of Pasticceria Giotto, an outstanding and exporting bakery business.

I thank my hon. Friend for her comments. Catering and bakery is a big area in which we do a lot of training already. We are working with organisations like Costa Coffee to get people into employment. We also have the Bad Boys Bakery at Brixton, which produces some excellent cakes.

There is no reason to doubt it; the Secretary of State seems remarkably well informed about these important matters.

Getting ex-prisoners into employment is clearly very important, as the Secretary of State has said. What assessment has her Department made of the number of prisoners who leave prison and get into employment and stay in it for more than six months?

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to talk about the longevity of such employment. We are designing the measures on which prison governors and probation services will be held to account on the basis of getting people into sustainable employment. That is very important.