The Economy and Work

Part of Debate on the Address – in the House of Commons at 2:20 pm on 26th May 2016.

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Photo of Caroline Flint Caroline Flint Labour, Don Valley 2:20 pm, 26th May 2016

Of course I do. I was proud to introduce drug testing on arrest for acquisitive crime to ensure that we could get prisoners into drug treatment before they even entered the prison system.

We had some 24,000 prison staff in 2010, but that number was reduced to just over 14,000 by June 2014. To tackle the illegal drug trade in prisons, we need staff and we need them to be able to do their job. I have three prisons in my constituency, two of which are closed. I have met Tim Beeston, governor at HMP and YOI Moorland—he is not even mentioned as the correct governor on the Ministry of Justice website—and he is committed to doing more, but he cannot do it alone. I have met and spoken to Mike Rolfe, chair of the POA, formerly the Prison Officers’ Association, about the problems facing his members and how they would like to do more. I commend the research produced by my union Community and its charter for safe operating procedures, which I am pleased to support.

We must recognise that the prison system is full of people whom the education system failed, and we need to do more. Why is it that we have mandatory assessment of literacy and numeracy, but it is not mandatory for someone to undertake education while in prison to improve those skills? If sentences are too short, continuing education should be a condition of probation upon release. That requires joined-up policies in and out of prison. It requires upskilling the Prison Service staff who provide education and training. I look forward to the Government’s announcement, but words are cheap; actions work.