Ian Lawrence and Helen Banner write
It’s Political Party conference season again, and whilst our members are used to hearing any number of pre-general election gimmicks over the years, this week’s offerings from the Conservatives in Manchester seemed to have been lifted straight out of the ‘desperate for ideas’ playbook.
One of them was something different though, in the form of what has been brilliantly described by a colleague on our Officer Group as a new ‘Crimmigration’ policy.
From what we know from a heads up briefing from HMPPS leaders this week, and a vague reference in a speech to the Tory faithful by Justice Secretary Alex Chalk about the so called ‘Norwegian Model’, it goes something like this:
British prisons are packed to the rafters and can’t take any more people.
The prison population of c98k has seen an addition of over 5000 clients this year.
Police stations have been sold off at a rate of knots in the last 10 years so there is no more capacity in the cells that remain.
The Chief Inspector of Prisons claims 1 in 10 of UK jails are unfit and should be closed down.
European governments (most notably Germany), refuse to extradite British national prisoners back to the UK as our own prisons are below standard.
The emerging solution? No, not the obvious one, which would be no more short-term prison sentences of less than 6 or even 12 months for non-public safety related offences. But instead, a plan to transfer some prisoners (not yet defined, but seems likely to be Foreign Nationals) from UK jails to serve their sentence in another country. The first question that came to mind was, would that include the vacant accommodation in Rwanda? We were told not, but Albania and the Netherlands (the latter who have closed many prisons down on account of a drop in crime) seem to be among the nations who could be well placed to take part in this new ‘Rent-a-Cell’ scheme.
Reassurances around the suitability of accommodation comes within the latest Government statement
We are especially interested by the section which explains that: ‘prisoners in the UK could be moved to another country’s prison estate provided the facilities, regime and rehabilitation [on offer] meets British standards.’
As always, we await the detail behind the promises, and there are already a huge list of questions emerging around the impact on Probation workloads, costs to the taxpayer, family visitation rights and the type of justice regime that exists in the receiving country, let alone the legislation that will be needed to get this through Parliament. It’s an obvious populist policy that may appear attractive to parts of the electorate, and the lawyers, but seems more likely to become just as ill-fated as many other superficial ideas before it.