Tory Justice Minister claims unions caused prisons problems by fighting privatisation
TORY Justice Minister Chris Grayling was sweating in the dock last night after campaigners condemned his “disingenuous” claim that unions were to blame for Britain’s prisons crisis.
Probation officers’ union Napo and penal reform campaigners turned the screws on Mr Grayling after he stuck his head in the sand claiming there was “no crisis” despite soaring violence and desperate staff shortages.
“We’ve got challenges from an increased (prison) population that was not expected in the last 12 months,” Mr Grayling whinged.
“We are meeting those challenges, we are recruiting more staff — but I’m absolutely clear there is not a crisis in our prisons,” he insisted.
Mr Grayling shamelessly tried to blame Con-Dem cutbacks on prison unions, saying they had preferred cuts to a sell-off.
“The approach we are now putting in place in our prisons is what was recommended by the unions and by staff,” he whimpered.
But Howard League for Penal Reform campaigns director Andrew Neilson shot back: “It is disingenuous for the political leadership at the Ministry of Justice to try to blame the unions for decisions about resourcing that were made at a higher level again.
“Our understanding is that the unions were faced with an ultimatum that there would be cuts, and it was then a case of whether the cuts would be delivered through privatisation or by the public sector.”
Napo national officer Tania Bassett slammed Mr Grayling for his handling of a “dangerous system on its knees.”
She said: “It’s not just the prisons that are in crisis but the entire justice system.
Mr Grayling’s “untried and untested reforms and cuts have limited access to legal aid, left the probation service in chaos and led to prisons being unable to cope with the basics, let alone any kind of rehabilitation.
“He is in extreme denial if he thinks all is well within the justice system.”
And Mr Neilson rubbished Mr Grayling’s claims that there was less violence than five years ago.
“Violence in prisons is on the rise. The number of suicides has soared by 69 per cent in a year,” he said.
Mr Grayling has been on remand after bigwigs blamed gang violence at a south London jail on staff shortages.
Prison inspectors said there were a whopping 254 fights and assaults at the Isis young offenders institution in 2013.
“Chris Grayling is still burying his head in the sand about the crisis in our prisons,” warned shadow justice minister Sadiq Khan.
“The government needs to listen to these warnings from the chief inspector about the deteriorating situation in our prisons and act now to prevent putting public safety at risk.
“We simply can’t afford to go on like this. Five more years of the Tories would mean five more years of failure in our prisons.”