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Prisons: Titans

Volume 702: debated on Thursday 5 June 2008

My right honourable friend the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

In December 2007, the Government announced their response to Lord Carter of Coles's review of prisons. In January 2008, we published an update on specific developments in prison policy, including the prison-building programme. That update included a commitment to consult on the development of the Titan prison programme recommended by Lord Carter and the place of these large prisons in the wider strategy for the prison estate.

Reducing reoffending and protecting the public lie at the heart of the Ministry of Justice’s work and are a key priority for the Government. We have a strong package of measures in place to ensure we achieve our objectives. Our strategy remains that the most serious and dangerous offenders should be in prison, with less serious offenders managed in the community through sentences which can often be more effective in terms of reducing reoffending than short prison sentences.

Both in custody and in the community, the Government are focused on matching resources to need. Interventions that will help an offender to change should reflect the seriousness of his or her offence and the risk he or she poses. This is true for the most serious offenders in the high security estate, whose risk of harm to others is high, through to less serious offenders serving their sentence in the community.

For many offenders a custodial sentence is necessary to protect the public and reduce reoffending, and that means providing sufficient places to meet the volume of sentences handed down by the courts. In addition, there must be sufficient places for those remanded in custody pending trial.

Since 1997, the Government have provided an extra 20,000 prison places. In December, we announced plans for a further prison- building programme, including three new Titan prison complexes, each housing 2,500 prisoners.

Titan prisons have a part to play in ensuring that we have sufficient capacity to continue to achieve our objectives, of which the most important is protecting the public. We will aim to use the most up-to-date technology to make them as secure as possible, both in terms of external security but also through the design of the blocks. The aim will be to give prison officers every opportunity to manage a safe environment.

We will also intend them to provide value for money for the taxpayer. Sending an offender to prison is expensive and we have a duty to work as hard as possible to use taxpayers’ money efficiently and effectively. Titan prisons will offer efficiencies and better use of technology, shared services and, we intend, will provide for the overhaul of old and inefficient parts of the prison estate.

The complexes will also provide the opportunity to “build in” rehabilitative functions, to ensure that prisoners get the treatment and work programmes they need in order to give them a chance to change their ways and reduce the risk of reoffending when they return to the community.

The Ministry of Justice has introduced end-to-end offender management for serious and prolific offenders. Titan prisons will allow individual offenders to spend more of their sentence in one place, rather than being moved round the prison estate through their sentence and so reduce costs and disruption to rehabilitation.

These improvements in offender management will therefore help the Ministry of Justice to protect the public and reduce recidivism, but also to do so at a reduced cost to the taxpayer.

I have today placed in the Libraries of both Houses, and published on the Ministry of Justice website, a consultation document as the first step in a broad consultation process designed to help shape the development of this innovative approach to prison design and operation: www.justice.gov.uk/publications/cp1008.htm. Copies are also available in the Vote Office and the Printed Paper Office. The consultation document:

sets out the Government's proposals for the development of a comprehensive strategy for the prison estate and the part which Titan prisons might play in that strategy;

develops Lord Carter's proposals for the specific roles which Titan prisons would play in the prison estate and describes the kinds of innovation in service delivery which the Government are seeking to secure;

seeks views on the role of Titan prisons in renewing the prison estate by providing opportunities to replace old accommodation which may no longer be fit for purpose; and

sets out the Government’s thinking on how large establishments should be managed in order to secure the maximum benefits.

Lord Carter did not recommend, and the Government do not intend to develop, monolithic 2,500-bed prison “warehouses”. The consultation document describes the kind of approaches we wish to encourage in pursuing the Titan model; that is, prisons which provide prisoner accommodation to an appropriate standard, which deliver good value for money and which maximise opportunities to reduce reoffending.

Titans are just one component of Lord Carter’s package of recommendations. In particular, the Government look forward to receiving the findings and recommendations from Lord Justice Gage and his working group, which is examining the advantages, disadvantages and feasibility of a structured sentencing framework and sentencing commission.

While we have already accepted Lord Carter’s recommendations, including on Titan prisons, the Government want to hear from all who have views and experience that could help shape the development and operation of these important new establishments.