So the Government thinks the solution to the crisis in our prisons is to give governors more power rather than have a more strategic sense of what the prison system is for and how best to lessen re-offending and properly rehabilitate offenders.
Liberal Democrat peer Jonathan Marks is unimpressed with the Government’s plans. He said:
It is a scary thought that the grand architect who oversaw the dismantling of the school system as we knew it is now getting his hands all over the nation’s prisons.
It is no secret that our prison system is in crisis. We lock up far too many people each year with inadequate facilities and staffing.
These reforms might tackle the problems at the surface but without root and branch reform of our criminal justice system the whole process will be built to fail.
The academy model for schools is falling apart as we speak so why the Government feels that this template is appropriate for prisons is incomprehensible.
Instead we should be focusing on ensuring that our criminal justice system is centred on rehabilitation and diverting people away from prisons wherever possible rather than this continued obsession with locking them up.
For those who do have to go to prison, we should be putting education at the heart of the prison system, to give prisoners the skills to lead a productive life on release; we should be helping prisoners deal with mental health issues and histories of drug and alcohol abuse; we should be focusing on offering them meaningful support in preparing for release. These things can only be achieved if we increase staffing in prisons, cut overcrowding, and give prisoners a proper amount of time out of their cells.
Just making some structural changes will be no more effective than rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic unless we provide the extra resources and the commitment to make prisons work as places of rehabilitation.
Local Liberal Democrat campaigner Elaine Bagshaw said
"These reforms are focused simply on pushing responsibility for prisons away from government and on to the shoulders of prison governors.
We urgently need true reform of prisons, with a focus on supporting people to address underlying issues that have led to them being in the prison system.
A punishment based system helps neither the people in the system or society as a whole. In 2016 it's time we put an end to this medieval system."