On 12th March 2019 Baroness Pidding asked the Government “what assessment they have made of the case for ensuring that prisons are places of rehabilitation.” The Bishop of Southwark, Rt Revd Christopher Chessun, asked a follow-up question:
The Lord Bishop of Southwark: My Lords, given the recent publication by the Ministry of Justice of figures showing a record level of the incidence of self-harm by prisoners, a record level of prisoner-on-prisoner assaults and a 29% rise in assaults on prison staff, will the Minister acknowledge that we need not only a major reduction in the size of the prison population but increases per capita in resources on a scale not yet contemplated by Her Majesty’s Government? This would give rehabilitation the priority that many now see as an absolute imperative.
Lord Keen of Elie: The right reverend Prelate is quite right: safe and decent prisons are the foundation of any initiative that we wish to take in rehabilitation and the reduction of reoffending. There are very real challenges there, particularly in the context of prisoners who are inclined to violent behaviour. However, it has to be understood that we are dealing with a very difficult cohort of people and that control over that cohort can be demanding. We have increased the number of prison officers over the past two years by more than 4,700. It would be fair to say that more can always be done in the face of such challenges, but we are seeking to do what we feel is appropriate to improve matters and, as I said, we believe that the delegation of more direct responsibility to individual governors will also be a step in the right direction.