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Prison Capacity

Volume 672: debated on Tuesday 25 February 2020

We are investing £2.5 billion in an additional 10,000 prison places. This is on top of the 3,500 prison places already being built and in the pipeline.

Which types of offenders will my hon. and learned Friend be prioritising for these new prison places, and what will she do to make sure they are given opportunities for reform and that they are places of rehabilitation, not just incarceration?

The next two prisons being built, at Wellingborough and Glen Parva, will be category C resettlement prisons that will house low-risk offenders coming to the end of their sentences, and will provide them with modern, safe and secure living conditions will enable them to rehabilitate. My hon. Friend is right that rehabilitation is critical, and the prisons will have in them industry spaces to enable them to learn skills and get jobs on the outside.

I rise as co-chair of the justice unions parliamentary group. Figures released last week revealed that prison officers were resigning at record rates, which prompts the question: how can the Government consider increasing prison capacity without first dealing with the staffing crisis? How does the Minister propose to retain staff currently leaving the Prison Service in their droves, given the toxic combination of poor pay, a dangerous workplace and an inhumane pension age?

The hon. Member is right to draw attention to the importance of prison officers, because they are critical to the whole system. I am very pleased that we have beaten our recruitment and retention targets with a net increase of over 4,300 officers, but, as the hon. Member says, we need to keep them safe. We are rolling out a number of measures including the use of PAVA—the pepper spray—and 6,000 body-worn cameras, improving and increasing training, and building on the key workers scheme which enables officers to build a relationship with the prisoners under their control and which we know is helping to reduce violence in our prisons.