Removing bars from prison windows is ‘common sense’, says prison policy expert

Removing bars from prison windows is ‘common sense’, says prison policy expert

A prison guard walks through a cell area at HMP Berwyn in North Wales.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Mark Day from the Prison Reform Trust has said proposals to remove bars from the windows of new prisons are “common sense”, describing it as “yesterday’s technology”.

Under new Ministry of Justice plans, window bars will be phased out and be replaced by toughened glass and air vents.

The proposals come as a new £600,000 study begins to assess the impact of a more “humane” environment by examining changes at HMP Berwyn in North Wales.

This includes having photographs on the walls and outdoor spaces being landscaped with seating areas and flowerbeds.

Mr Day, who is Head of Policy at the Prison Reform Trust, told talkRADIO’s Matthew Wright: “Some of this is common sense because bars on windows are yesterday’s technology.

“We now have windows that are much more secure with reinforced glass and so much more effective from a security point of view at stopping contraband getting into the prison.

“They are also very hard to be broken and so it is a bit of a silly debate to be arguing that we need bars reinstated on windows when we have windows that are much more effective.”


'Less cost to society and less victims' 

HMP Berwyn will also call prisoners “men” and described them as being in “rooms” rather than cells.

Mr Day said it was “good” that the Government was learning about what works to “rehabilitate people”.

“I think it is good that the Government is learning from the evidence about what actually does work to rehabilitate people,” he said.

“Therefore it reduces reoffending on release, which should mean less cost to society and less victims.”

He added: “People are sent to prison as a punishment, but not for further punishment.

“Once people are in prison what we want to see is those people being rehabilitated so that they can lead law-abiding lives on release.

“This principle of normalisation is an important one because what it contributes is people having a sense of responsibility for themselves and others.

“We know that having a decent and dignified environment can contribute to that.”


'A decline in safety' 

When Wright challenged him about rising violence and use of illegal mobile phones within UK prisons, Mr Day said that he was not “condoning the illicit use of mobile phones”.

He added: “The reality in our prisons at the moment is that we have seen levels of violence and self-harm rise exponentially.

“At the same time since 2010, we have seen a very significant drop off in the numbers of staff in prisons.

“That has recently begun to rise over the last couple of years as a result of the Government realising that the numbers had gone too low.

“That was causing a decline in safety. Whilst the number of staff has been rising, the levels of violence and self-harm remain very high and continue to rise. That is extremely worrying.

“No one is condoning the use of illicit phones in prisons. Measures such as the use of landlines in cells are welcome to shrink the market.”