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Bishop ‘encouraged’ by David Cameron’s plan for prison reform

Prime Minister David Cameron is escorted by prison governer Stephen Ruddy as he tours HMP Onley in Rugby ahead of a major speech on prison reform (PA)

The lead bishop for prisons in England Wales has said he was “very encouraged” by David Cameron’s recent speech on prison reform.

On Monday, the Prime Minister announced “the biggest shake-up of prisons since the Victorian era” and said prisoners should be seen as “potential assets to be harnessed”.

The plans include the creation of six “reform prisons” in England and Wales, which will be part of a pilot scheme aiming to tackle high levels of violence and re-offending.

In a statement, Bishop Richard Moth of Arundel and Brighton said he was “very encouraged by the Prime Minister’s commitment to reforming our prison system and his recognition that prisoners should be treated as assets to our society rather than liabilities to be managed. How we treat prisoners is one of the most pressing moral challenges today and something that none of us should ignore.”

Other proposals revealed by the Prime Minister include the publication of league tables, that will aim to highlight how successful prisons manage to cut reoffending and improve literacy, and transforming of young offenders institutions into “secure schools”.

“Prison is a punishment itself, not somewhere people go to be punished further.The Prime Minister’s promises of better education and urgent improvements to mental health support are both important steps towards creating the ‘good prison’, where people are treated with dignity and given a real chance to turn their lives around,” said Bishop Moth.

“It is also promising that the Prime Minister discussed alternatives to custody and better community sentencing – particularly for women with babies. However we must go further. It is immoral to continue imprisoning more than 85,000 people without the proper means to support them.”

He added: “Ultimately an effective and humane prison system requires a significant reduction in the prison population. The Church is committed to working alongside government and using our expertise in reform and rehabilitation to help reach this goal.”