Inmates at March’s Whitemoor Prison given extra 947 days of jail time as Howard League calls for changes to prisoner punishments
Prisoners at Whitemoor jail in March were given at total of nearly 1,000 extra days behind bars last year as punishment for breaking prison rules - nine times as many as the previous year.
Now the Howard League for Penal Reform, is calling for changes which would see the handing out of extra days as punishment for misbehaviour abolished nationally to bring English and Welsh prisons in line with those in Scotland.
The use of additional days for punishment was scrapped north of the border 10 years ago.
Research published by the Howard League today (Monday) reveals that prisons across the country are “routinely and increasingly resorting to draconian punishments in a counter-productive attempt to regain control”.
In the East Anglia region prisoners were handed a total of 24,083 days – almost 66 years – of additional imprisonment in 2016.
At Whitemoor, which houses 409 prisoners, there were 107 extra days handed out to inmates in 2015, but last year that figure rose to 947 - despite the prison population remaining the same. That equates to 2.3 extra days per inmate.
The league says across England and Wales, almost 290,000 additional days of imprisonment were handed down to prisoners during 2016 – a 75 per cent rise in only two years – as jails have been brought to breaking point by overcrowding and staff shortages. The extra jail time is costing taxpayers about £27 million says the league.
The findings are published in Out of control: Punishment in prison, the latest in a series of Howard League reports examining how prisons respond to misbehaviour. It reveals how disciplinary hearings, known as adjudications, are used overly and inappropriately, with even minor infractions such as disobedience and disrespect being punished with additional days of imprisonment.
The league says scrapping the imposition of additional days in England and Wales would “stop a vicious cycle” and says currently punishments pile more pressure on the prison population and worsen overcrowding, which in turn creates conditions for drug abuse, violence and other types of misbehaviour.
Frances Crook, chief executive of the Howard League, said: “Prisons are out of control. More people than ever before are losing their lives to suicide, and violence and self-injury are at record levels. The adjudications system has become a monster that is making these problems worse.
“It is surely time to follow the example set in Scotland, where scrapping additional days’ imprisonment has made prisons fairer and safer. There are more constructive ways to deal with misbehaviour than simply locking up people for longer, which puts even more pressure on the system.
“Bold but sensible action to reduce the prison population would save lives and prevent more people being swept into deeper currents of crime, violence and despair.”