Why prisoners are spending more time in their cells

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Assaults may be down. But that could be a temporary blip if prisoners stay locked up all day

Save time by listening to our audio articles as you multitaskThe prison service says the garden is now being used. But the restrictive regime that caused its neglect is still in place at many training prisons, which are meant to help prisoners prepare for release. In many English facilities, prisoners attend work or classes for half a day rather than a full day. In June more than half of prisoners at another training prison, Wandsworth, were locked up for 22 hours a day.

But many governors noted a side-effect of the restrictions: prisons became easier to manage safely. In the years before covid prisons were growing more violent, owing to budget cuts and the arrival of new psychoactive drugs. Violence peaked in the year to March 2019 when there was an assault rate of 415 incidents per 1,000 prisoners.

Some prison officers are quitting or missing work. In the year to June 2022, 15.3% of officers quit, up from 12.2% before the pandemic. Staff missed an average of two weeks of work in the year to June 2022, the highest number of days since the Prison Service started tracking it. Mental and behavioural disorders were commonly cited as reasons.

But there is a danger that restrictive regimes could become entrenched. The Prison Officers Association, a union, wants to abandon target amounts of time that prisoners should be out of cell. “The days of full wing unlock and pointless association periods must cease,” wrote Mark Fairhurst, chair of the union, in an update to members in February. Governors are more concerned about the safety risks of unlocking many prisoners with few officers.


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When criminals are locked up there is generally less violence, no duh

Oh dear

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