Falling staff numbers, rising prisoner numbers and privatisation are a dangerous mix for our prisons.
That's why I was pleased to support Labour's motion this week calling on urgent action from the government to start tackling the problems faced by our penal system.
Last summer, the Chief Inspector of Prisons released a damning report (read it here) on the state of British prisons, revealing that cases of serious assault against staff and fellow prisoners are on the rise, as are suicide and self-harm. Since 2010 when the Conservatives came to power, the number of prisons deemed safe has fallen from 84% to just 50% in 2015. At the same time, staff numbers have fallen due to funding cuts and privatisation. His report stated that prisons are at their worst for 10 years, with the deficiencies most acute in adult male prisons. He also raised significant concerns about failures in rehabilitation. In addition to all this, we face the reckless privatisation of the probation service.
Labour called for action at the time the report was published, and this week again put a motion to parliament urging a re-think from the government on its approach to prisons and prisoners.
The Howard League for Penal Reform have reported alarming reductions in the number of prison staff (click here to read more). In some prisons, the number of officers has halved in only three years, and many prisons have been forced to operate with 40% fewer staff. However, the prison population is rising. It is little wonder the system is in crisis.
Labour's motion was unsurprisingly defeated by the government. They're more interested in part politics than acknowledging failings and trying to put them right.
I and my Labour colleagues will continue to fight for reform.