One key aspect has been missing from Michael Gove’s growing commitment to a more liberal prison policy: an understanding of numbers. After a very well-received speech earlier this month in which he outlined his thinking on the subject, the new justice secretary was asked if he recognised that without reducing the number of prisoners, and therefore improving the staff-to-inmate ratio, it would be impossible to give them the attention they needed for rehabilitation.
Gove parked it. He gave what I thought to be a certain nod-of-the-head – or at least he did not rule it out. But he refused to say that prisoner numbers needed to be reduced.
Today, in a remarkable statement from chief prison inspector Nick Hardwick, that point was made again, this time more forcefully. It came at the end of a damning report on conditions in Wandsworth prison, which holds 1,630 adult men – 70% of its certified normal accommodation of 963. Meanwhile, there were “severe staffing shortages” – where staff were downRead More »from Prison inspector to Gove: You need to reduce prison numbers