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Alex Chalk Announces Reforms To U.K. Prison System

Saran Mann

Two thirds of prisons in England and Wales have been declared overcrowded. To combat this crisis, most prison sentences under a year will be scrapped and low level criminals will be released eighteen days early in some prisons.

Justice Secretary, Alex Chalk, stated an alternative punishment for offenders sentenced to under twelve months in prison. Convicts will be undertaking unpaid community service, for example, ‘cleaning up’ neighbourhoods and ‘scrubbing graffiti’.

Prison population […] is growing at a rapid rate

Additionally, the government announced £400 million more money, allocated to build eight-hundred new cells and refurbishing 35,000 prisons to increase standards.

Foreign offenders, who committed low level crimes, are to be deported up to a year before their sentence ends and banned from returning to the UK.

The prison population in the UK is growing at a rapid rate as it has reached a record high of 88,225 prisoners and only six-hundred spaces left across all jails.

It had been reported that many judges had been instructed to delay sentencing for rapists and burglars because of the problems in the prison system.

Tension and violence among prisoners

The chief inspector of prisons, Charlie Taylor, described prisons having ‘inhuman’ living standards and as dangerously understaffed.

This has caused inmates and staff to feel unsafe as overcrowding has created tension and violence among prisoners.

The BBC reported that recent overcrowding is caused by ‘court backlog‘ and the proportion of sentenced prisoners serving more than four years going up. 

Shabana Mahmood […] branded it as a “damning indictment of the government’s collective failure”

However, Mark Fairhurst, head of the Prison Officers’ Association, has blamed the crisis on thirteen years of Conservative governments underfunding the custodial system.

Shabana Mahmood, the Labour Party’s shadow justice secretary, responded to the governments new plans and branded it as a “damning indictment of the government’s collective failure.”

Saran Mann

Featured image courtesy of Ehsan Habashi via Unsplash. Image license found here. No changes were made to this image.

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