Staffordshire Commissioner for Police, Fire and Rescue and Crime, Matthew Ellis today welcomed the Government’s £100m boost to improve security and cut crime in prisons.
Mr Ellis, who spearheaded a regional PCC’s review into prisons across the West Midlands which was shared nationally earlier this year, said he was encouraged to see this investment into the prison system, which targeted key themes his report had identified.
‘The work we undertook in the Midlands on behalf of PCC colleagues took a warts and all look at crime behind bars over six months and made a number of recommendations to tackle criminality across the prisons estate.
‘The Prime Minister’s announcement today is exactly right and picks up on many of the same themes we identified. Stopping weapons, drugs, phones and other contraband getting into prisons has to be a priority.
‘Whilst I think investing in more scanners and metal detectors will be helpful, it’s not the entire solution. A key step has to be prisons and police sharing more intelligence and data.
‘Criminals who’ve committed serious offences need to serve their time in full and the public needs to be reassured they are paying the penalty for their actions.
‘But at the same time, we need to stop ridiculously short sentences. It’s absolutely crazy to create the breeding grounds for tomorrow’s criminals.
‘Disrupting criminal networks, which allow organised crime to operate from behind bars, exploiting vulnerable individuals and fuelling drug use and violence, is absolutely essential and in the public interest, so today’s move to invest more money in the system is undoubtedly a good thing,’ said Mr Ellis.
The West Midlands regional group of PCCs, chaired by Mr Ellis, published the ‘Crime in Prisons: where now and where next?’ report in February, the result of a six-month study by criminologists at Stafford and Leicestershire universities.
The Commissioner visited prisons throughout the region, including eight in Staffordshire – one of the highest number of prisons in a single county across the country.
‘I saw dedicated people trying to do their best in impossible circumstances, because of the way the system works at present. This needs to change,’ he added.
Mr Ellis commissioned Staffordshire University’s Professor James Treadwell and Dr Kate Gooch, from University of Leicester, both experts in the field, to carry out the in-depth study. They spoke to prisoners, prison governors, staff and multiple agencies throughout the West Midlands over a period of six months.
The multi-agency approach in the West Midlands has resulted in all key agencies working together to tackle the systematic and deep-rooted problems and led to the development of a five-point plan to address these.
Today’s government announcement, apart from revealing how prisons in England and Wales are to receive £100m to improve security and cut crime, also detailed a programme to create 10,000 additional prison places. The Crown Prosecution Service will also receive an extra £85 million over the next two years.