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Prisons: Prevention of Violence

Volume 651: debated on Tuesday 18 December 2018

Violence in prisons is fundamentally driven by three things: drugs, the conditions in the prison, and relationships between prison officers and prisoners. We are addressing all three. To cut down on drugs, we are putting much more perimeter security in place to make it more difficult to get drugs in. Secondly, we are investing a great deal in decency and cleanliness in prisons. But the most important thing is the training and support for our hard-working prison officers so they can develop the right relationships with prisoners—ones that are strict but also humane—in order to bring proper behaviour management into place.

Clearly reducing violence in prisons does depend on effective training of prison officers, but what assessment has my hon. Friend made of improvements in the way violent offenders are handled?

We repeatedly survey this; we have a specialist team looking at it. We have a long study under the violence reduction strategy, and the real conclusion is that it is about training. It is about what happens at the cell door—about how we develop respectful relationships in the same way that a good teacher would. There are high expectations on prison officers and on prisoners, so that we can have a safe, humane relationship that also has boundaries in place to control behaviour.

23. The Minister has made much of the 10 pilot areas, and I am glad that Bristol is one of them. However, what comfort does he have for the prison officers and prisoners of the other 110? (908267)

This challenge is absolutely right; we are focusing initially on 10 prisons, as it is difficult to achieve cultural change in 120 prisons simultaneously. The idea is to develop in those 10 prisons the right standard model on drugs, violence and decency, and if we are successful, as I believe we will be by August, to then roll that out across the rest of the estate.

The Minister yet again comes to the House all gung-ho, even though he has absolutely no reason to be since safety in our prisons continues to be compromised and they remain in a state of emergency. One such example is HMP Birmingham, one of the most dangerous prisons in the country with conditions there found to be so bad by the prisons inspector that control was taken away from G4S. At the very minimum will the Minister give me assurances, or a guarantee, that this prison will not be returned to the private sector?

As I have said on a number of occasions, this is not fundamentally about private and public: there are good private prisons and good public prisons, and there are bad private prisons and bad public prisons. But I will give this assurance: unless G4S can demonstrate that it can take back that prison and run it both well and sustainably, we will not be returning the prison to G4S.