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Reductions in the overall numbers of staff are part of the Prison Service's plans for improving its cost efficiency. Final decisions on numbers have not been taken. These decisions will be reached following local consultation with the unions and will take into account the operational needs of the service, available financial provision, the scope for cost reductions in other areas and the numbers of staff who have applied for voluntary early retirement and severance.
Lady Blatch has asked me, in the absence of the Director General from the office, to reply to your recent Question about whether most modernisation schemes in the country's 136 jails are to be abandoned next year and whether maintenance is to be reduced to the "safe minimum".
The reduction in the capital spending provision for 1996-7 has led to some modernisation schemes being deferred until later years, to be financed either through conventional funding or through the private sector. None of these projects has been abandoned.
Some maintenance schemes have also been deferred from 1996-7. Spending in the current year is on those projects identified as vital. However the Prison Service strategy is to monitor and review the condition of maintenance at prisons on a regular basis, and it is possible that some of those schemes that have been
The reduction in Prison Service capital expenditure during the current financial year will mean that our plans to modernise and/or install sanitation in wings at 14 prisons will be amended. The general effect is that some schemes due to start in 1996-7 will be deferred until later years.
Work on the remaining projects planned for 1996-7 has been rephased and will be funded either conventionally, or through the private finance initiative (PFI). Where governors have concerns about possible compromises either to security or to safety, they will make local short-term arrangements to strengthen other aspects of security, such as CCTV or undertake short-term maintenance to keep facilities operating safely.
An assessment of the effect on police cell use of the reduction in capital expenditure was made in December 1996. This work concluded that there was no significant increase in the risk of using police cells in the 1996-97 financial year.
The Prison Service has not been using police cells since June 1995. Apart from a major unplanned loss of accommodation or an unexpected rise in the population above current projections, we do not plan to use police cells.
The Prison Service is committed to ensuring that prisoners who are likely to benefit from access to appropriate educational facilities should have opportunities to do so. However control of public expenditure is fundamental to government policy and the Government are seeking efficiency improvements and economies throughout the public sector, from which the Prison Service is not exempt.
Governors have been asked to reduce their overall cost per prisoner place by 9.5 per cent. over the next three years. The Prisons Board has issued guidance on cost reductions which makes it clear that the emphasis should be on securing greater efficiency, with reductions in regime activities such as education made as a last resort. The guidance also states that priority should be given to safeguarding activities which contribute to security and control; are constructive and purposeful; offer good value for money; and help prisoners tackle their offending behaviour.
In making decisions about their education programme, governors will be guided by the recently issued National Core Curriculum document, which emphasises the importance of basic literacy and numeracy, English for speakers of other languages, information technology and social and life skills. They will also be taking account of courses which have few prisoners, are costly to run and which offer qualifications that do not have any clear use to prisoners in helping them lead law-abiding and useful lives after release.
Baroness Blatch: Sentences in individual cases are a matter for the court. Those sentenced to immediate custody at the Crown Court for a second conviction of domestic burglary include both those who received a custodial sentence on their first conviction for domestic burglary, and those who received a non-custodial sentence. For the former group, the sentence on the second conviction was on average 2.5 months longer than that imposed for the first conviction.
|Second conviction||Third or subsequent conviction||Seventh or subsequent conviction|
|Average change in custodial sentence length (months)||+2.5||+5.6||-0.6|
(1) Based on a sample of 949 offenders--all those convicted of burglary of a dwelling at the Crown Court in five weeks of 1993 and 1994. Two hundred and forty-four of these offenders were sentenced to immediate custody during the sample period and had previously been subject to an immediate custodial sentence for burglary of a dwelling imposed either by the Crown Court or by magistrates' courts.
(2) An offender who is convicted of several offences of burglary at the same court appearance is counted as having only one conviction at that court appearance.