Advertisement

  1. ITV Report

Prison system 'in crisis', former Lord Chief Justice warns

England's former most senior judge Lord Woolf thinks the prison system is 'in crisis'. Credit: Gareth Copley / PA WIRE

The prison system is 'in crisis again' with conditions in facilities worse than at the time of one of Britain's worst jail riots in 1990, according to England's former most senior judge Lord Woolf.

Lord Woolf, who led the inquiry into the trouble at the Strangeways prison in Manchester 25 years ago, is calling for a new investigation into the state of the country's prisons.

There are things that are better now than then but I fear we've allowed ourselves to go backwards and we're back where we were at the time of Strangeways.

For a time after the riot things were much better and numbers were going down.

Unfortunately prisoners are again being kept in conditions that we should not tolerate, they're a long way from home and their families can't keep in touch with them - a whole gamut of things that need to be done and that's why I would welcome a thorough re-look at the situation and above all trying to take prisons out of politics."

– Lord Woolf

Two people died and hundreds more were injured during the Strangeways disturbance, which lasted for 25 days in April 1990. Most of the prison was also destroyed during the riot.

Lord Woolf's report into the incident was seen as a watershed moment in the history of Britain's prisons.

It set out 12 major recommendations and identified dilapidated, overcrowded and insanitary conditions as the main underlying causes of trouble.

Lord Woolf is calling for a new inquiry into the conditions in the UK's prisons. Credit: Richard Gray / Empics Entertainment

Speaking on BBC Inside Out North West, which will be broadcast tonight, Lord Woolf also said more needs to be done to stop prisoners from turning to crime again once they are released.

He said: "People's re-offending behaviour has not been tackled. There is all sorts of talk of doing so but in practice it doesn't happen. Apart from a very small minority, everyone who is in prison is going to come out one day and we should make sure that when they come out they can be properly turned away from crime and can be properly rehabilitated.

"What is needed is someone who's younger and more energetic to do another review of the prisons and take the prison situation out of politics.

"You have to look at the problem holistically and that's what I don't think we're doing and not making the matter a political football. The main political parties want to show the public they're tough on crime because they believe that's what the public wants.

"I believe that the public want to feel safer and I don't think they would want to take steps to be tough on crime if it made them even more vulnerable to crime and that is the difficulty and that's where unfortunately I'm afraid I didn't win the argument."