Crack down on prisoner perks at Highpoint

HMP Highpoint Prison, off the A143 near Stradishall.
HMP Highpoint Prison, off the A143 near Stradishall.
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The Government’s decision to replace prisoners’ perks with hard work will restore the balance between punishment and rehabilitation, a West Suffolk MP has claimed.

Last week, Justice Secretary Chris Grayling announced that in future prisoners, including those at Highpoint in Stradishall, will have to work to earn privileges like television viewing.

The move follows a review of the existing scheme and has been welcomed by West Suffolk MP Matthew Hancock.

He said: “These reforms will restore the balance between punishment and rehabilitation.

“I know HMP Highpoint has an excellent team and I have always been impressed when I have visited the prison.

“I am certain they will adapt to these changes, which will mean prisoners spending more time doing useful work and go together with our reforms to rehabilitation.”

David Ruffley, MP for Bury St Edmunds, also supports the reforms, which include longer working days, prison uniform for newly convicted adult men prisoners and removing subscription channels.

“When I worked as a cabinet advisor at the Home Office 20 years ago I visited several prisons. Frankly, prisons were far too ‘cushy’,” he said.

Prisons Minister Jeremy Wright said: “This is a big change for the prison system. Prisoners will now have to actively contribute to their own rehabilitation, help others and continue to behave well if they are to earn privileges above the basic level.

“Convicted prisoners will have a longer working day and will not be allowed to watch television when they should be engaged in work or other purposeful activity. They will have to earn the right to wear their own clothes and spend money brought into the prison for them.

“In short, prisoners who refuse to work or engage in their own rehab will not earn privileges until they do. The IEP (Incentives and Earned Privileges) system should support all this Government is seeking to achieve in improving rehabilitation and reducing reoffending.”

But the Howard League for Penal Reform says the Government should look at taking the prison population back to a manageable level by giving non-violent people community sentences, allowing ‘something productive’ to be done with those who remain.

Andrew Neilson, its director of campaigns, said: “Insisting that prisoners must work and take part in education is all well and good, but you can’t punish someone for being idle if those opportunities aren’t available in the first place.

“The fact that the prison population has doubled in the past 20 years has left prisons overcrowded and staff overstretched, with little choice but to lock people up in their cells all day with nothing to do.

“A good example is a large prison such as Highpoint, where a recent inspection found that too many prisoners were underemployed as there were insufficient activity places on offer. This means they are unlikely to develop skills that will be useful after their release.”