Prisons criticised over inmates doing little but watching daytime TV and sleeping

·2-min read

Prisons have been beset with inmates doing little but watching daytime TV and sleeping since the COVID pandemic - and there will be "a price to pay", it has been warned.

Chief inspector of prisons Charlie Taylor said many prisons were suffering from a "post-COVID torpor".

And he told an audience at the Middle Temple hall in central London on Monday that most were doing a "better job of punishing than they were at rehabilitating or protecting the public from future crime", according to a copy of his speech.

Although the long-term effects of lockdowns on criminals behind bars are not yet known, he said, it is "likely there will be a price to pay for the boredom".

In the lecture for Royal Holloway, University of London, he said that since the end of 2021, the inspectorate had looked at seven category C training prisons, where there had been a "depressingly low level of activity for prisoners in jails whose responsibility is to educate, train and increase the employability of prisoners, with the aim of preparing them for their eventual release".

He described it as a "sort of post-COVID torpor" that seemed to have "infected many prisons, with workshops and classrooms remaining empty, and prisoners wiling away their time watching daytime television and sleeping".

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Mr Taylor added: "We can't yet know what the long-term effects of extended lockdowns will be on this generation of prisoners, but it is likely there will be a price to pay for the boredom, the inactivity, the loss of family ties, the postponement of group therapy and the lack of education or work."

He said reoffending rates had remained "stubbornly high" at around 40% for adults and over 60% for children.

'Better job of punishing, than rehabilitating'

"This suggests that most prisons are doing a better job of punishing than they are at rehabilitating or protecting the public from future crime. I don't expect that after the last two years, we will see an improvement in these numbers."

He called for change in order for prison to be "an essential component of a successful justice system, that is trusted by the public to keep them safe".

"With the right focus on growing great leaders and recruiting and retaining strong and effective officers, with buildings that create a safe and productive environment and a belief that with the right help, most people will stop committing crime," he said.

"We can develop a prison system that supports change and becomes value for money for the £45,000 that the taxpayer spends on each prison place."

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