ANNE MARIE MORRIS IS THE CONSERVATIVE MP FOR NEWTON ABBOT AND HAS BEEN SINCE 2010
Over Easter recess, I had the opportunity to visit HMP Channings Wood in the constituency, to meet with the brilliant new Governor, Richard Luscombe to discuss the outcomes from their recent Independent Monitoring Board Report.
The visit included a tour of the prison grounds to view communal areas, a typical cell and the good work of the charity ‘Storybook Dads’ which helps prisoners to produce video and audio stories to send to their children.
The governor discussed concerns with me regarding the fabric of some of the prison’s buildings, which are in many cases in a poor state of repair. Roof leakages are common, and many showers at the prison are in very poor condition and in need of maintenance work in order to provide basic decency for prisoners. I am aware that capital bids for repair and improvement have in the past been repeatedly refused, which is completely unacceptable.
We also discussed access to drugs, which is a key challenge at Channings Wood that I know that the prison’s leadership team is committed to tackling. The governor raised with me the need for new technology to aid in the detection of drugs and illicit mobile phones, both of which can be causes of crime and violence within prisons. I shall be urgently raising these concerning issues with the Prisons Minister, Rory Stewart MP.
Last year, the Prisons Minister announced a new ’10 Prisons’ project to tackle the most persistent and urgent problems facing 10 of the most challenging prisons.
The project was created to focus on challenging violent and disruptive behaviour and includes £10 million funding to fight drugs, improve security and boost leadership capabilities through new training.
Whilst this was obviously welcome in the broader aim of improving the prison system nationwide, it remains to be seen the impact, if any, this project has on prisons such as Channings Wood. It would be completely irresponsible to sacrifice the performance of all other prisons, simply so that the ’10 prisons’ project can be deemed a success.
Work has the power to change people’s lives, especially those of ex-prisoners. A prison sentence rightly serves as a punishment, depriving someone of their liberty. However, for those offenders who want to turn their backs on crime, prison should also be a catalyst for change.
This is why I welcome the Education and Employment Strategy for adult prisoners, published earlier this year. The vision at the heart of this strategy is that when an offender enters prison they should be put, immediately, on the path to employment on release.
People with criminal convictions face significant barriers on release from prison, with access to employment and education being at the forefront. Reforms to prison education gives governors the tools they need to tailor provision to the requirements of employers and the needs of their prisoner populations.
Governors are able to control their education budget, decide what curriculum is most appropriate for their learner population, how it is organised and, crucially, who delivers it.
It is essential that prisoners develop their skills and gather experience through work during custodial sentences. Prison jobs are a key part of this, as is release on temporary licence (ROTL), which enables prisoners to undertake work in real workplaces.
For offenders who play by the rules, the Government wants to use incentives like workplace ROTL to encourage continued good behaviour and help support a turn away from violence and disorder in prisons.
The fantastic work of the ‘Storybook Dads’ charity is a great example of how prisoners can prepare themselves for life after release. It allows them to maintain family ties whilst in prison, and also boosts confidence and morale of both prisoners and their children. I commend the work of Sharon Berry and the team.
Channings Wood used to be a high performing prison and I am confident that, under Governor Luscombe’s leadership, it can once again become an exemplary institution.