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Welsh prisoners get 7,000 extra days in jail for breaking rules.

Byline: Tom Houghton Reporter tom.houghton@walesonline.co.uk

PRISONERS at Welsh jails who fell foul of jail rules were given more than 7,000 days of additional imprisonment last year, according to a report published today.

Covering Cardiff, Parc in Bridgend and Swansea prisons, the Howard League for Penal Reform report, Punishment in Prison: The World of Prison Discipline, documents the additional days handed out to prisoners serving their sentence.

Parc Prison in Bridgend totalled the highest number, with 4,224 days, com-pared to its 1,401 average population. Swansea's figure was 1,584 extra days, with a prison population of 438, and Cardiff's was 1,229 extra days with a population of 800.

According to the Howard League penal reform charity, the added days were mainly given for offences involving disobedience, disrespect or property offences, as, the charity claimed, prisons lose control under the pressure of overcrowding and staff cuts.

Frances Crook, chief executive of the Howard League, said: "The system of adjudications has become a monster, imposing fearsome punishments when people misbehave, often as a result of the dreadful conditions they are subjected to."

Based on prisons in both England and Wales, the report calculated the total number of additional imprisonment during 2014 was almost 160,000 days, or 438 years.

Punishments for prisoners given at adjudications can range from loss of canteen access to solitary confinement or extra days of imprisonment, and the report also revealed violence and self-injury in prisons are at their highest levels in a decade.

This included eight suspected homicides during the past year, the highest number in a calendar year since the current method of recording began in 1978.

It also revealed the number of adjudications where extra days were given to prisoners has risen by 47% since 2010.

A prison negotiator carries out most of these adjudications, and there is no right to legal representation for prisoners at these hearings, except in limited circumstances.

Cases that are "sufficiently serious" may be referred to a visiting district judge.

The charity's report said another pressing problem was its view that these adjudications are too inflexible to deal sensitively with the needs of vulnerable children, as well as people with mental health problems, meaning the process and punishments often make the situation even more severe.

Currently two prisoners can be given varying punishments depending not on the rule that was broken but on whether they are on remand or sentenced.

In a similar manner, two children breaking the same rule can get different punishments depending on the type of institution where they are detained.

And the number of extra days given to children has doubled in just two years, from 1,383 in 2012 to 2,683 in 2014, despite the number of children detained in prison being almost half what it was.

The charity also claimed the rise in the number of adjudications comes as prisons across the country struggle to overcome problems caused by a growing prisoner population, chronic overcrowding and cuts of up to 40%.

Mr Cook added: "This bureaucratic, costly and time-consuming system of punishments then further feeds pressure on the prisons, creating a vicious cycle of troubled prisons and troubling prisoners.

"The principle of independent adjudication where liberty is at risk is an important one.

"But prisons have come to rely too heavily on the threat of additional days. The Ministry of Justice should curtail the use of additional days in all but the most serious cases.

"The overuse of adjudications is not seen as fair, it is not fair, and the imposition of additional days is very expensive and counterproductive."

But a spokeswoman for the Prison Service at the Ministry of Justice said it was right that offenders who break prison rules are properly punished.

She added: "Where indiscipline amounts to a criminal offence, prisoners should expect to be investigated by the police and face more serious sanctions.

"The Justice Secretary has set out a plan for reform in our prisons, making them places of ambition and endeavour.

"These crucial reforms will help curb indiscipline and cut reoffending, leading to less crime and safer streets."
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Dec 14, 2015
Words:688
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