Government plans to send foreign criminals home to relieve overcrowding in prisons
Justice Secretary Alex Chalk MP will announce prison reforms for England and Wales today, after denying speculation that offenders including convicted rapists would be spared jail time because of prison overcrowding.
Today’s announcement will also see plans to bring forward legislation that would allow prisoners to be held overseas, a move that the government said follows steps taken by Belgium and Norway.
There are serious concerns about overcrowding, with the government predicting the prison population will grow to 89,100 next month, with only 88,667 spaces for prisoners available.
Shadow justice secretary, Shabana Mahmood, said: “13 years of reckless mismanagement of the criminal justice system has led to a crisis of epic proportions where they are now coming up with policy on the hoof, which does nothing to deal with the immediate overcrowding crisis.
“Convicted criminals, including those who have committed sexual or violent crimes remain on our streets, instead of being in prison where they belong.
"Labour would uphold law and order in this country by building the prison places we need and by putting criminals behind bars."
The Ministry of Justice said that over 3,1000 foreign criminals have already been removed in the year to March, but 10,500 remain imprisoned in England and Wales.
Under new plans, foreign offenders will be removed sooner into their sentences with more caseworkers deployed to speed up removals.
Currently, foreign criminals can be removed up to a year before the end of their sentence.
Ministers now want to bring that forward six months, in a move they hope will save £70,000 per prisoner.
Writing in yesterday’s Sunday Telegraph, the Justice Secretary said: “There have been inaccurate reports that judges are being told not to send rapists to prison. This is untrue. The most serious and dangerous offenders are being locked away for longer.”
The Secretary of State suggested reforms to sentencing guidelines would be introduced for what he called “low-level” criminals that would see many criminals put to work cleaning neighbourhoods.
“We need to look again at low-level offenders. Because while the overall reoffending rate is 25%, the rate for people who spend fewer than 12 months in prison is over 50%,” he said.
“A short stretch of a few months inside isn’t enough time to rehabilitate criminals, but is more than enough to dislocate them from the family, work and home connections that keep them from crime.
“Too often, offenders routinely turn back to crime as soon as they walk out of the prison gates.
“This is the wrong use of our prison system and taxpayers’ money. It doesn’t deliver for victims and it doesn’t cut crime. We need to fix this.”
He described the reforms as “Texan-style” justice, writing: “No longer will the perpetrators of this heinous crime walk out of prison after even two-thirds of their sentence. A 15-year sentence will mean 15 years in prison.
“This is the justice that the British people expect, and we will deliver it.”
The US state of Texas currently has 184 inmates awaiting execution for their crimes, and is where a federal judge ruled in 2014 that Muslim inmates were being unlawfully restricted from practising their faith.