Chelmsford Prison Issues Hundreds Of Extra Imprisonment Days

18 November 2016, 06:52 | Updated: 18 November 2016, 06:55

Chelmsford Prison has handed out nearly a 1000 extra days imprisonmment for rule breaking, doubling the number in a year.

More than 17,000 days - or 48 years - of additional imprisonment were imposed on prisoners found to have broken the rules in prisons in the East Anglia region last year, a report by the Howard League for Penal Reform reveals today (Friday 18 November).

The Howard League says at Chelmsford Prison 985 were handed out in 2015, up from 545 in 2014.

Prisons across England and Wales, under growing pressure due to overcrowding and a lack of staff, are increasingly resorting to draconian punishments in a desperate and counter-productive attempt to keep control.

The findings have been published in a Howard League report, A Million Days: The world of prison discipline, which states that more than 1million additional days - equal to almost 3,000 years - have been imposed on prisoners since 2010.

The report looks at how prisons operate disciplinary hearings called adjudications, where allegations of rule-breaking are tried. These mainly concern disobedience, disrespect or property offences, which increase as conditions in prisons deteriorate.

Ministry of Justice (MoJ) data show that, across England and Wales, the number of additional days' imprisonment imposed has increased by 30 per cent in a year - from 165,856 in 2014 to 215,348 in 2015.

Private prisons generally hand down more additional days of imprisonment per prisoner than public prisons. Of the 14 private prisons in England and Wales, all but two imposed more additional days in 2015 than in 2014.

The report marks the start of a new Howard League campaign to reduce the number of people in prison by reforming The 3Rs - rules in prison; release from prison; and recall to prison.

The campaign aims to get immediate behaviour change by authorities that would ease the pressure on the prison estate by reducing the population.

The campaign begins in the week when up to 10,000 prison officers stopped working during a day of protest at the intolerable conditions behind bars.

Frances Crook, Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: "The system of adjudications has become a monster. Originally intended as a way to punish incidents of unacceptable conduct, it is now routinely used as a behaviour management technique by prisons that are out of control.

"Instead of solving the problems, these punishments feed a vicious cycle, piling more pressure on the prison population and worsening overcrowding, which in turn creates conditions for drug abuse and violence.

"At the same time, rules to incentivise prisoners' behaviour have been made more punitive, which is also contributing to the poisonous atmosphere behind bars.

"The government has acknowledged that there are problems in the system, but warm words are not enough. The imposition of additional days should be seen as a sign of a poorly performing prison and included in new measures being proposed to monitor safety and order. The rules around incentives and earned privileges must also be revised, as ministers have now promised.

"The Howard League 3R campaign will ask governors to deal with infractions instead of referring to external adjudicators, and the judges to exercise self restraint by not bloating prison numbers even more."