Levels of safety are not high enough in prisons, meaning that reform of inmates cannot take place, Prisons Minister Sam Gyimah has said.
Levels of violence and drug taking are too high, meaning that efforts go on tackling these, rather than reforming prisoners, Mr Gyimah told Peston on Sunday.
The problem of overcrowding was not the reason for violence within prisons, but "designer drugs" and psychoactive substances, as well as more violent and challenging prisoners, the Conservative MP said.
More power needs to be given to prisons and their governors to allow for reform, but they must also be held to account if reform does not take place, Mr Gyimah said.
Mr Gyimah told Robert Peston The Prison and Court Bill, which the Government intended to introduce this week, will focus on reforming offenders, adding currently the only thing the Secretary of State must do is house inmates.
The East Surrey MP also called for more employers to work with former inmates to provide incentives and aid reform.
Defending the decision to give prison officers in London and the south-east a pay-rise, and not those in other areas of the country, Mr Gyimah said this would not dent morale and was simply it was harder to recruit officers in the south-east and there was also a higher cost of living in the area.