Posted: Sat 19th Aug 2023

Welsh Affairs Committee to delve into overcrowding and safety concerns in Wales’ prisons

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Saturday, Aug 19th, 2023

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The Welsh Affairs Committee has launched a new follow-up inquiry to its 2019 work on Prisons in Wales.

The move comes amid mounting concerns surrounding living conditions, overcrowding, and the overall readiness of the UK’s prison estate.

Safety concerns in prisons across England and Wales have been raised, and while the number of self-inflicted deaths recorded in English prisons fell by 12% in 2019, it rose in Wales. Further to this, between 2018 and 2020, the number of drug finds increased by 65% in England and Wales.

In the UK Government’s Prisons Strategy White Paper, ministers set out that it will “deliver the biggest prison building programme in more than 100 years”. The Government has also committed to fitting scanning devices in prisons to reduce the numbers of weapons and drugs entering the estate.

With only very limited Wales-specific data on prisons published by the Ministry of Justice, the Committee’s inquiry seeks to shine a light on the true picture of the challenges facing prisons in Wales, and what – can be done to tackle those challenges.

This renewed inquiry will investigate:

  • The current prison estate condition, including overcrowding, drug importation, and violent incidents.
  • Staffing concerns.
  • Offender management.
  • The collaboration between UK and Welsh Governments, particularly in prisoner health, education, housing, and substance misuse.

Commenting on the initiative, Stephen Crabb, Chairman of the Welsh Affairs Committee, emphasised the urgency of the issue. He stated, “With a prison population across England and Wales exceeding 83,000, which is projected to grow, it’s imperative to address existing hurdles like overcrowding and safety.” He further highlighted the existing data deficit on Welsh prison matters, affirming the Committee’s resolve to provide clarity and suggestions for the betterment of both offenders and prison personnel.

The Committee has invited written submissions by 13th October. These contributions should primarily address:

  • Changes in conditions for Welsh prisoners and staff since 2019.
  • Implications of the Prison Strategy White Paper for Wales.
  • Impact of limited Wales-only data on comprehending Welsh prison provisions.
  • Assessment of the Welsh prison estate’s readiness concerning living conditions, safety, and crowding.
  • The adequacy of education, rehabilitation, and Welsh language provisions in Welsh prisons.
  • The extent of contraband-related issues in Welsh prisons and the UK Government’s potential countermeasures.
  • The collaboration between non-devolved and devolved entities to assist Welsh inmates.

This inquiry intends to provide insight into the real-time challenges and offer recommendations for a better and safer prison estate in Wales.

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