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Prisons: Sexual Offenders

Volume 614: debated on Tuesday 6 September 2016

10. What steps her Department is taking to provide additional support for prisons with increased numbers of inmates who are detained for sexual offences. (906064)

We will always have prison places to fulfil the orders of the courts. Those convicted of sexual offences are just one cohort of a range we manage daily across the estate. In doing so, we will make sure that estate capacity is realigned to meet the demand for places, including for those convicted of sexual offences.

Her Majesty’s prison Lewes in my constituency has seen a huge surge in prisoners either on remand or serving a sentence for sexual offences. This is putting massive pressure not just on staffing but on space and resources. What specific help can the Minister give HMP Lewes?

My hon. Friend makes a very valid point. Those at HMP Lewes who are charged with sexual offences are generally held in separate units that provide suitable accommodation for their offending behaviours. Perhaps I can reassure her that the prison received £153,000 of the Government’s £12 million fund for safety, and that it plans to spend that on staff, focusing on safety and on violence reduction. There is a recruitment drive going on at the moment. Staff are being vetted and a number of staff will be starting imminently.

Surely the Minister understands that, whether it is prisoners who have been tried and convicted for crimes of a sexual nature or prisoners with mental health and other problems, it is the quality of the management of our prisons that must give us all great concern. When my Select Committee looked at education in prisons, we kept coming back to the fact that the culture of the prison comes from the top and is supported by well trained and well educated prison officers.

On this rare occasion, I agree entirely with the hon. Gentleman—the quality of leadership in a prison makes a huge difference to the regime. It makes a huge difference to how staff are inspired and to the rehabilitation of offenders. That is why Government Members are arguing for prison reform to empower governors, give them control of budgets and enable them to get local resources to meet the needs of offenders.