Q. Who doubts that Grayling's staffing cuts precipitated the worst prison crisis in a quarter of a century?
A. Only one person. Unfortunately, that person is the Justice Secretary.
The latest ratings for prison performance (for 2016/17) have just been published. They show that the descent of the prison system into violent chaos is actually accelerating. Last year, no fewer than 10 prisons were judged to be 'of serious concern' - before Grayling's cuts, there were none. Looking at the chart below, mapping staffing cuts against deteriorating performance, who can doubt the causal link? Grayling's cuts were dangerous, irresponsible and are costing lives. And everyone agrees. Except, that is, for successive Tory Justice Secretaries, who continue to deny it (as must, therefore, officials). Truss reversed only a fraction of the cuts: most of them remain in place - and neither she nor Gove ever conceded the causal link; nor will Lidington. For 2 reasons: they cannot blame a Cabinet colleague; and they cannot get the money to restore more than a fraction of the cuts. Consequently, no Tory Justice Secretary can give a straight answer to the question: our prisons were doing fairly well until 2012, now they are a complete disaster area - what caused that change? Truss's White Paper, for example, was a masterpiece of evasion on that question (see Note below.)
Staffing cuts and prison performance, 2010-2017
Left hand axis: staff numbers in public sector prisons (end March)
Right axis: % of prisons rated as causing 'serious concern' by NOMS
Truss's White Paper contained a passage on the causes of the growing instability and violence in prisons which was misleading (and the same approach to the use of statistics was evident in her speech on prison reform this Spring). This is what I said to the Select Committee about it:
Annex B: misleading use of statistics
The WP is keen (172) to blame rising violence and self-harm since 2012 on changes in the makeup of the prison population. This passage is misleading in its use of evidence, in several respects:
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I was formerly Finance Director of the Prison Service and then Director of the National Offender Management Service responsible for competition. I also worked in the NHS and an IT company. I later worked for two outsourcing companies.
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