In the Queen's Speech 2016 it was announced that there would be a prison reform and courts bill. The bill is being branded as the biggest shake up of prisons since Victorian times, with the creation of reform prisons. The reform prisons will provide governors with more powers to enter into contracts and establish their own Boards. At the heart of the reforms is driving a revolution in education, training, healthcare and security for prisoners. The bill also includes measures to meet the Government’s manifesto commitment to modernise the Courts and Tribunals service, reducing delay and frustration for the public.
From 1st July 2016 there will be six early adopter prisons, with two in the North East: HMP Kirklevington Grange, a Cat D open prison, and HMP Holme House, a local Cat B prison. There will be one Executive Governor for both prisons: Ian Blakeman. The Executive Governors have taken charge of the establishments with immediate effect and will work closely with staff and partners to develop their plans for the prisons. The aim in establishing Prison Reforms is to provide these Governors with maximum flexibility to restructure arrangements in their prisons to best meet the needs of the prisoners in their care, to encourage innovation, and to drive improvement at a local level.
Whilst having much greater local autonomy Governors will still be required to support the operation of the wider criminal justice system, working with partners both locally and nationally to ensure the best service possible is delivered for the public. Where changes are proposed to local arrangements which would impact on partners, Executive Governors will be required to properly consult with interested parties before proceeding with any change. There is an intention to monitor and evaluate the progress of the Reform Prisons to spread learning and good practice across the wider prison estate.
More details about how the early adopter prisons will work are still to be confimred however some broad detail was hinted at in a speech that Michael Gove gave to the Governing Governors’ Forum on 12th May:
- Pace of change: “Our prisons need a radical programme of reform which will take several years to implement before they can make the positive difference”
- A focus on education: “…governors should be given direct control of education budgets… It’s a big change. But radical change is needed. The current level of education provision in prisons is frankly inadequate.”
- Release on Temporary Licence (ROTL): “We know that the three most powerful factors helping to keep ex-offenders from re-offending are a good job, strong family ties and a stable place to live - ROTL makes all of them easier to achieve.”
- Changing Incentives and Earned Privilege (IEP) schemes: “…giving Governors far greater autonomy to shape incentives and privileges in a way they consider right for their institution”
- Reviewing the Imprisonment for Public Protection (IPP) Sentence: “We must not compromise public safety but there are a significant number of IPP prisoners who are still in jail after having served their full tariff who need to be given hope that they can contribute positively to society in the future.”