Anne Owers raises alarm at rise in prison population in fifth annual report

Chief inspector of prisons Anne Owers today reiterated her alarm at the rising prison population in her fifth annual report.

While highlighting the improvements in the secure estate, including a drop in suicides and improved funding and quality of education and healthcare, the chief inspector said there were “some important and increasingly disturbing caveats to the progress that this report records”.

The prison population has risen by 3,000 since the same time last year to around 80,000 and Owers highlights how this figure is 20% higher than when she became chief prisons inspector in 2001.

Anne Owers said: “For the first time ever, there were more prisoners serving indeterminate-sentenced prisoners than those who were serving short sentences of less than 12 months.

“These are unparalleled increases,” she continued. “At the same time, there are resource constraints on public spending, which are likely to affect the quality of life in prisons both directly and indirectly.

“This is an alarming and potentially extremely damaging combination.”

It is for this reason that Owers insists her report is published at a “critical point” for prisons and the correctional system as a whole.

More prison places are rapidly being built to cope with the rising population, but the report says “they are chasing ever-rising numbers”. The only part of the prison population remaining stable is the female population.

Owers stresses that healthcare and education have benefited from extra resources and expertise from outside the Home Office and highlights that there is now end-to-end offender management.
Prisoners are still experiencing long journeys travelling from one locked out prison to another. Funding for drug treatment to help those coming off drugs is nearly 60% less than was hoped for.

The chief prisons inspector added that prisons were not the only places of detention that need and get independent scrutiny. Inspections of immigration removal centres and short-term holding facilities have “brought to light some previously hidden practices, and stimulated necessary reforms”.

Over the next year, the prisons inspectorate will continue joint work with other criminal justice inspectorates.

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