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Baroness Blatch: My Lords, I shall answer the noble Earl quite directly when I reach that point. The governor is confident that that level of provision will enable him to continue to meet his commitments under the national throughcare framework agreement and to maintain and, indeed, to improve the quality of sentencing planning at Wandsworth. The governor also plans to reduce by 1.5 the number of chaplain posts at Wandsworth, but this (and the other reductions) coincides--a point not mentioned in the debate so far--with a reduction of 380 prisoners in the prisoner population as wings without integral sanitation have been taken out of use. Therefore, the figure is not 480, as the noble Baroness said. Rather, 380 prisoners are no longer there and that is matched by a reduction in chaplaincy needs. But no prisoner will suffer as a result of that. Indeed, as the noble Lord, Lord Harris, knows, those wings certainly need sanitation improvements in any event. That is one reason why they were taken out of use. The loss of the posts will not affect the number of prisoners who are able to have access to the church services.
As to the provision of education, emphasis will be placed on meeting prisoners' basic educational needs. A number of classes have, in the past, run with small numbers and were therefore not providing good value for money. Some of these classes will therefore no longer be available. During 1996, however, a further 135 places will be created in workshops to provide additional employment places for prisoners and the emphasis on basic literacy will be intensified and not reduced, as the noble Baroness suggested.
Another major concern of the BoV report is the accommodation of immigration detainees. That was also highlighted in their 1994 report. I know that this is an area of concern which is shared by other boards of visitors across the prison estate. The board at Wandsworth is specifically dissatisfied about the continued detention of convicted overseas nationals who have completed their sentences and are awaiting deportation. The board feels that, when a detainee has completed a sentence for a criminal offence, he should not remain at Wandsworth. The Prison Service cannot give an unequivocal assurance that such detainees will be transferred automatically. My honourable friend the Minister for prisons has previously informed the board that there is no reason why a person who has served a sentence for a criminal offence and is to be deported from the United Kingdom should not remain there temporarily while arrangements are made for deportation.
Lord Harris of Greenwich: My Lords, I apologise for intervening, but is the Minister aware of what the Chief Inspector of Prisons said on this issue? In March 1995 he said that those detained for immigration
Baroness Blatch: My Lords, the noble Lord has not gone on to outline the reasons for that. A prisoner may have completed his sentence but be subject to a deportation order. The view has been taken that he should remain in custody and therefore, he must do so. As I have said, we hope that that will be temporary while deportation arrangements are made. Some prisoners are moved to other prisons but on some occasions, it is not possible to do that.
Where it is clear that deportation will be delayed, transfer to another establishment may be considered. But much will depend on the individual circumstances. This can include the nature of the offence of which the person was convicted and the immigration issues that need to be resolved before deportation can be effected.
The board is also concerned that the Immigration and Nationality Directorate of the Home Office is not "hard charged" for holding detainees in Wandsworth. The Prison Service is, in fact, allocated appropriate funding to enable it to accommodate immigration detainees. The budget allocated to Wandsworth is based on its operational capacity, and additional funding for particular types of prisoner is therefore not necessary.
The board is extremely concerned that A and B wings should be refurbished to a high standard in addition to having in-cell sanitation installed, and should not be used as contingency accommodation to cope with a steep rise in prison population.
A and B wings at Wandsworth were taken out of use in February 1996 to meet the deadline for providing prisoners with 24-hour access to sanitation. Due to the reduction in the Prison Service's capital expenditure, the refurbishment work at Wandsworth, which was scheduled to start in 1996-97, may have to be deferred. I know that the Prison Service is currently investigating all available options to start the refurbishment work as soon as possible and does not plan to operate A and B wings until this work is completed.
Baroness Mallalieu: My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt the Minister and I have no wish to be accused of discourtesy twice in the course of this evening. But perhaps she will clarify a point for me about A and B wings. I gave a figure of 480 and the noble Baroness told me that I was wrong about that. Therefore, is the figure wrong on page 40 of the report, because the board of visitors appears to believe that those two wings taken together can hold 480 prisoners? I should be grateful to know which is right.
Baroness Blatch: My Lords, I am told that as a result of the closure of A and B wings, there is a reduction of 380 prisoners in the prison. It may well be that capacity is greater but 380 prison places have been taken out of existence. If I am wrong and the noble Baroness is right, I shall certainly write to her about that, but certainly I have been told that the closure of those wings affected 380 people. My understanding is that that is more than
Lord Harris of Greenwich: My Lords, I promise that this will be the last intervention. I specifically put a different question. I understand the position in relation to the capital refurbishment programme but I asked a very different question. I believe that the Wandsworth board of visitors and many others would be interested in the Minister's reply. An unequivocal assurance is sought that A and B wings will never again be used to house prisoners while they remain in an unrefurbished state. Is the Minister able to give an answer on that point, because it is a mater of considerable significance to the board and to many of us?
Baroness Blatch: My Lords, I am not able to give a definitive answer. However, I can say that there are no plans to bring A and B wings back into operation before refurbishment is completed. I cannot be definitive because an emergency may arise before the refurbishment. We then have to consider the alternative of police cells. Although we believe that that is an unlikely situation, A and B wings may then have to be brought into operation. But, if that does happen, a view will have to be taken about making those wings habitable for those purposes. That may fall short of a complete refurbishment but we do not plan to bring the wings back into operation until those refurbishments have taken place, which we hope will be as soon as possible.
The governor has ensured that all allegations of assault are thoroughly investigated by prison line management or, where necessary, by an independent investigator, whether that is in-house, a governor from elsewhere in the Prison Service, or the police. The governor took command in 1988 of a prison which he has acknowledged had a reputation for unwarranted use of force against prisoners. He has ensured that there are systems in place which address these problems. I have talked at some length with the governor about the changes that he has brought about. I am more than convinced that he is anxious that he has as open a system as possible and that all prisoners are given open access to make sure that their complaints and grievances are properly heard and properly dealt with.
When the governor took up post independent bodies such as the board of visitors were not allowed unsupervised access to the residential areas and were not therefore privy to the complaints that prisoners wished to air. The board of visitors now has free access to all areas of the prison and is able to listen to prisoners' complaints in an appropriate manner. This is in line with how boards should operate within prisons. The board of visitors' report to the Home Secretary comments on the positive relationships which have been formed with the governor. It is a fact that the governor has facilitated access to the prison for members of the board and ensured that all prisoners have access to them.
The police have recently conducted an investigation into the conduct and results of the investigations that had taken place into allegations of assault in 1995. This independent police investigation concluded that the inquiries undertaken at Wandsworth had been carried out appropriately and the conclusions reached were satisfactory. Concerted efforts will continue to be made to ensure that this position is carefully maintained.
It is important not to get carried away with the picture that the press might want to paint of a prison at which nothing is going well. Nothing could be further from the truth. I have tried to outline what staff and management at Wandsworth are doing in response to the board of visitors' report. There is a wealth of other good work which is being done at Wandsworth.
The governor and his staff have been enthusiastic in their implementation of the Prison Service's drug strategy: the establishment was selected this year to become a specialised drug treatment centre, and mandatory drug testing has been implemented effectively at the establishment. The drug dealers who remain in the prison have not taken kindly to the stringent measures the governor has taken to prevent drugs being smuggled into his prison. This year, so far, there have been 48 finds of drugs on prisoners and 26 visitors have been gate arrested attempting to bring drugs into the prison. The positive mandatory drug testing results reflect that these measures have been effective. In April this year 82 prisoners were tested and 10 proved positive; this is approximately one-third of the national average. All prisoners who test positive on the MDT programme are offered counselling and treatment.
In his last year with the Prison Service the governor of Wandsworth continues to implement innovative programmes at the prison. For example, the governor is introducing a programme which is designed to help to break the cycle of offending, which is based on the Cambridge study of delinquency development which followed 397 families from South London over 30 years. The programme will address the needs highlighted by local research to identify the size of the delinquency problem amongst prisoners and children.
I believe it was the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, who referred to the library services. It is unfortunate that the need to provide cells prevented the provision of a proper library on C Wing. Arrangements have now been made for the end of the ground floor to be used as a library. There are no cuts in access to libraries throughout the prison. The noble Earl, Lord Longford, asked why there have been cuts. I have
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