Today, I asked the Justice Secretary to take urgent action in tackling the prison crisis and to stop simply speaking about reform.
My question comes following the release of a prison report from Lewes Prison today which found that prisoners were being kept in their cells for 23 hours a day. A similar report released earlier this month from Wormwood Scrubs also revealed high levels of overcrowding, vermin and violence.
My full question to the Minister was:
"Another day, another critical report published by the Chief Inspector of Prisons. Today it is Lewes Prison. The Minister's words about meaningful work in prison ring very hollow when the Inspectors found prisoners at Lewes routinely being kept in their cells for 23 hours a day.
"This follows their report on Wormwood Scrubs, described as 'continuing to fall short of expected standards' and, at the time of their inspection, there was little cause for optimism. Suicides, self-harm, violence, psycho-active drug and alcohol use finds in prisons and re-offending rates are at an all-time high.
The Justice Secretary has been in his job for a year now and all we've had is talk about reform. Isn't it time for him to stop the talking and start doing something?"
Andrew Selous, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice:
"The Government recognises that we have a long way to go to improve our prisons which is why the Secretary of State has laid out a full reform program.
"I went to Wormwood Scrubs last week and I can tell her there were a number of jobs fairs in the prisons which did lead to jobs and we have a new good governor there and I am hopeful we will see improvements.
"I have looked at the Lewes report of course there are things that we will take further forward but there are also some positives there, not least the good relationship in Lewes between the prison and the Community Rehabilitation Company."
I'm very disheartened by the Minister's response. I don't understand how he can believe that we can have prisoners being rehabilitated if they are unable to even leave their cells for more than one hour a day. Once again we see more discourse and no action from this Government. Justice Secretary Michael Gove really needs to get a grip on this issue. We have record high levels of suicides, self-harm, violence, psychoactive drug and alcohol use in our prisons. Without action these numbers will only continue to rise and it is the taxpayer that pays the price for this inaction.
You can watch the exchange below: