Prison Strategy White Paper

Baskar Sundaram
Baskar Sundaram

The Ministry of Justice has published its ‘Prisons Strategy White Paper’. The Strategy aims to reduce crime and rehabilitate offenders through a large prison-building and infrastructure-upgrading programme. Key announcements include:

Prison governance

  • Prison Governors will be given greater autonomy, with two-year Regime Design programmes to design their own prison management regimes.
  • New key performance measures across security, training and employment, and drug and alcohol addiction. Public league tables will be published with prisons weighted on their individual circumstances.
  • A new commitment to recruit an additional 5,000 officers in public and private prisons by the mid-2020s, with 2,400 employed in the next two years. Also, a new retention programme, improved qualifications and training for staff, and a new HMPSS fast track scheme from September 2022.

Prison estate

  • All future prison builds will be zero net carbon ready from day one.
  • Digital infrastructure enhanced and in-cell IT expanded to 15 prisons by Summer 2022.
  • Safety in prisons will be enhanced. Maintenance spending prioritised for projects that ensure fire safety compliance.
  • The Security Investment Programme will be completed by March 2022, and includes plans for all new-build prisons to have Enhanced Gate Security, X-Ray Body Scanners, and biometric visitor identification.

Education and employment support

  • A new Prisoner Education Service will help prisoners attain basic standards of numeracy and literacy and give access to vocational skills through in-cell IT access.
  • A new job-matching service, dedicated employment advisers including DWP Prison Work Coaches, and Employment Hubs. An Employability Innovation Fund will deliver sector-specific skills training.
  • Prisoners will be supported to re-enter communities through personalised Resettlement Passports.
  • Investment of £155 million per year for a new unified probation services, and £75 million per year by 2024/25 to expand the use of GPS-enabled and alcohol abstinence-monitoring tagging.

The Strategy seeks feedback and engagement from partners and stakeholders. Questions include:

  • Do you agree that these are the right long-term ambitions for the prison estate?
  • Do you agree these are the guiding principles around which the future regime should be designed?
  • Do you agree with our long-term priorities for making prisons safer?
  • How should we develop outcomes frameworks to ensure our Future Regime Design ambition is realised?
  • Where can we go further to give prisoners the skills to secure stable employment on release?
  • Are there any areas where we should extend autonomy for all Governors to support the delivery of improved outcomes?

The Paper includes commitments to further strategies for the maintenance and renewal of the prison estate, including accessibility audits of the current estate.

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