On 7th September 2017 the House of Lords debated a motion from Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood, “That this House takes note of the level of overcrowding in prisons.” The Bishop of Rochester, who is the Church of England’s lead bishop for prisons, spoke in the debate:
The Lord Bishop of Rochester: My Lords, I too am very grateful to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Brown, for bringing this debate. I rather wish that the slight slip of the tongue of the noble Lord, Lord McNally, in first referring to the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, as a former Minister for prisons had been true, but there we are.
I recall a visit in my capacity as Bishop to Her Majesty’s Prisons, to one of our prisons and encountering a young man who was visibly distressed and disturbed, sitting against a wall with his hands over his ears, unable to cope with the general noise and hubbub on a prison wing—not least an overcrowded prison wing. I talked to one of the officers on that wing, who was relatively newly recruited and new in post; he was clearly there because of a really positive motivation, wanting to make a difference and with a vocation to work in the Prison Service. However, he was very conscious that because of responsibility to the whole wing, he was unable to give that distressed young prisoner the focused attention that was required. Continue reading “Bishop of Rochester raises effect of prison overcrowding on mental health”
On 24th February 2017 the House of Lords considered the Homelessness Reduction Bill, a Private Member’s Bill from Lord Best and Bob Blackman MP. The Bishop of Rochester, Rt Revd James Langstaff, spoke in support:
The Lord Bishop of Rochester: My Lords, I declare my interest as the chair of the organisation Housing Justice and thank the noble Lord, Lord Best, for his sponsorship of this Bill in your Lordships’ House. I also add my thanks to Bob Blackman, the Member for Harrow East, for his initiative in bringing forward the Bill in the other place. Before turning to the specifics of the Bill, I will echo the final points made by the noble Lord about the connection between the wider issues of housing supply and housing finance and the sharper end of homelessness which we see on our streets and in other manifestations. It would be such a tragedy if some of those wider matters were not tackled and frustrated the good intentions of this Bill. Continue reading “Bishop of Rochester supports Homelessness Reduction Bill”
On the 21st December 2016 the Bishop of Rochester, the Rt Revd James Langstaff tabled and asked a question to Government on the floor of the House: “following the disturbance at HM Prison Birmingham, what measures they will take to address immediate and short-term issues of safety and security in prisons.” The full series of exchanges, including follow-up questions from other Members, is reproduced below:
The Lord Bishop of Rochester: My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper and I draw the House’s attention to my interest as the Bishop to Her Majesty’s Prisons.
The Advocate-General for Scotland (Lord Keen of Elie): My Lords, while we implement our White Paper reforms, which will reduce violence and reoffending, we are continually working to ensure stability across the prison estate. The Prisons Minister chairs daily meetings with senior members of the Prison Service to monitor potential unrest. Where necessary, we are providing governors with immediate targeted support, such as rapid facilities repairs, and we are in the process of recruiting 2,500 additional officers across the estate.
The Lord Bishop of Rochester
: I am grateful to the Minister for his response. I am also grateful for the debate and discussion in your Lordships’ House on Monday following the Ministerial Statement. In that debate, a number of noble Lords drew attention to the importance of purposeful activity for prisoners, including education, training, work and a range of other rehabilitative programmes. Such activities aid reform, encourage positive behaviour and thus enhance safety and security—but they can also be seriously compromised, not least by staffing issues. Can the Minister assure the House that such programmes will be sustained and ideally increased in the short term as well as the long term?
Continue reading “Bishop of Rochester questions Government about staffing levels in prisons after Birmingham riots”
On 11th October 2016, Baroness Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville asked the government “how they plan to improve the quality and affordability of housing in the United Kingdom”. The Bishop of Rochester, the Rt Revd James Langstaff, contributed to the debate.
Continue reading “Bishop of Rochester calls for more affordable housing”
On 27th & 30th June 2016 the Bishop of Rochester, Rt Revd James Langstaff, received written answers to questions on radicalisation in prisons.
The Lord Bishop of Rochester: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what discussions they are having with prison chaplains, including those of Muslim and Christian faith, to address concerns about radicalisation and extremism in prisons. [HL599] Continue reading “Bishop of Rochester asks Government about radicalisation and extremism in prisons”
On 13th June 2016 Baroness Meacher asked Her Majesty’s Government “whether they have any plans to review their drug policies in the light of the United Nations statements at the UN General Assembly Special Session on 19-21 April.” The Bishop of Rochester, Rt Revd James Langstaff, asked a follow up question:
The Lord Bishop of Rochester: My Lords, I note the Minister’s disinclination to institute a review. None the less, I wonder whether he could assure the House that in some context or other, attention is being given to such matters as the information in a report by the charity Release published in 2013, which shows that black people were stopped and searched for drugs at more than six times the rate of white people, despite successive crime surveys showing that drug use in black communities is at a lower rate than in white communities? Continue reading “Bishop of Rochester raises disproportionate use of stop and search against black people”