I understand this Private Member’s Bill (PMB), also known as the ‘Safe Inside Bill’, seeks to place a statutory duty on the prison service and private prison operators to minimise violence, and to enshrine into law the Safe Inside Charter, developed by nine unions, some of which are recognised by the prison service, and other measures designed to maximise staff experience.
While I welcome the increased debate and awareness this Bill brings to the issue of safety in prisons, I do not support this Bill as the Government is already taking action to improve prison safety. I am reassured that the safety of prison staff is a top priority for the Government. I understand that risks to staff are continually assessed, and suitable safe systems of work are implemented accordingly. The effectiveness of these controls is monitored at local and national level, and through joint audit work with recognised prison unions, for whom facility time is provided to engage in matters of Health and Safety.
The Government’s Prison Strategy White Paper outlined the steps the Government will take over the next ten years to ensure prisons are safe. These include cracking down on crime in prisons and forming a joined-up approach to safety across the whole prison system which offers hope, provides support, and prevents harm. This will help staff to have a better oversight of prisoner needs.
In addition, I am encouraged that all new-build prisons will have cutting-edge body scanners and airport-style security as standard to prevent offenders from continuing criminal activity behind bars.
There is no doubt that drugs in prisons is one of the most pressing challenges facing our criminal justice system. It both contributes to violence, crime and vulnerability and threatens the safety of prison staff. I welcome the Government’s zero-tolerance approach towards drugs.
I will closely follow the Bill as it is introduced to Parliament although, for the reasons outlined above, I will not be supporting this Bill.