Responding to the Chief Inspector of Prisons’ report on the crisis at HMP Birmingham, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson Ed Davey has called for urgent action to reduce overcrowding in prisons and recruit more prison officers.
 
The inspection report, published today (4th December) found that violence and drug-taking were rife at HMP Birmingham, with many staff working in fear and unable to maintain control.
 
In August, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons issued an “urgent notification” letter alerting the Government to the appalling conditions in the prison. He has also issued urgent notifications this year in respect of three other prisons: Nottingham, Exeter and Bedford.
 
Although the Government has reduced HMP Birmingham’s population since stepping in, the latest official figures show that it was still over-capacity by more than 200 prisoners at the end of October.
 
Figures obtained by the Liberal Democrats under a Freedom of Information request show that, as of 31st March, 182 prisoners at HMP Birmingham were serving short-term sentences of less than 12 months. The President of the Prison Governors Association said last year that such sentences “don’t work and are pointless”, and the Justice Secretary has admitted that they are ineffective at reducing re-offending.
 
Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson Ed Davey said:
 
“Ministers need to get a grip on the crisis in our prisons. The violence and chaos isn’t confined to HMP Birmingham – we keep hearing similar reports from across the country.
 
“Prisons are stuffed full of people on short-term sentences, which cost millions and don’t work to prevent crime. Overwhelmed staff are simply unable to cope, leading to riots, widespread drug use and violence against staff.
 
“The Liberal Democrats demand better. The Government must urgently recruit more prison officers and bring forward legislation to end pointless short-term sentences and reduce overcrowding.
 
“Our goal must be to transform prisons into places of rehabilitation and recovery, to cut re-offending and make our communities safer.”
 
 
 
Notes to editors
 
HM Inspector of Prisons’ report on HMP Birmingham will be available here from 4th December: https://www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmiprisons/inspections
 
The “urgent notification” letters are available here: https://www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmiprisons/about-hmi-prisons/urgent-notifications/
 
The latest Prison population figures show that, as of 26th October, HMP Birmingham had a population of 1,003 with in-use certified normal accommodation of 796. These figures are available here: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/prison-population-figures-2018
 
Figures for the number of people on short-term sentences by prison, obtained by the Liberal Democrats under a Freedom of Information request, are in the attached spreadsheet.
 
Prison Governors Association President Andrew Albutt’s speech of 10th October 2017 is available here: https://prison-governors-association.org.uk/pga-press-release-presidents-opening-address-10-october-2017/

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