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Welsh Affairs Committee launch follow up inquiry to examine Prisons in Wales

18 August 2023

The Welsh Affairs Committee has today launched a new follow-up inquiry to its 2019 work on Prisons in Wales.

From living conditions to over-crowding, there have been growing concerns that the prison estate across the UK is not fit for purpose. Safety concerns in prisons across England and Wales have been raised, and while the number of self-inflicted deaths recorded in English prisons fell by 12% in 2019, it rose in Wales. Further to this, between 2018 and 2020, the number of drug finds increased by 65% in England and Wales.

In the UK Government’s Prisons Strategy White Paper, ministers set out that it will “deliver the biggest prison building programme in more than 100 years”. The Government has also committed to fitting scanning devices in prisons to reduce the numbers of weapons and drugs entering the estate.

With only very limited Wales-specific data on prisons published by the Ministry of Justice, the Committee’s inquiry seeks to shine a light on the true picture of the challenges facing prisons in Wales, and what - can be done to tackle those challenges. 

It will look specifically at:

  • The state of the prison estate (such as crowding, importing of drugs, and violence)
  • Staffing issues;
  • The management of offenders; and
  • The way in which the UK and Welsh Governments coordinate and cooperate in areas such as prisoner health, education, housing and substance misuse. 

Chair's comment

Welsh Affairs Committee Chairman, Stephen Crabb, said: 

“The prison population across England and Wales is over 83,000, and this figure is expected to increase. Steps must be taken to address overcrowding and safety concerns within the existing prison population before existing challenges are exacerbated.”

“It is difficult to establish the true picture of issues facing prisons in Wales due to there being a lack of Wales-specific data. Our Committee will seek to offer this clarity and identify what steps can be taken to improve the situation facing offenders and prison staff alike.” 

Terms of reference 

The Committee is inviting written submissions by Friday 13 October. These should focus on, but not be limited to:

  • How has the situation facing prisoners and prison staff in Wales changed since 2019 when our predecessor Committee last reported?
  • What are the implications for Wales of the Prison Strategy White Paper?
  • How does a lack of Wales-only data impact upon the understanding of prison provisions in Wales?
  • Is the Welsh prison estate fit for purpose in terms of living conditions, crowding and safety in prisons?
  • Is the Welsh prison estate fit for purpose in terms of the provision of education and rehabilitation facilities for Welsh prisoners, and Welsh language facilities?
  • How big of a problem is contraband such as weapons and drugs in Welsh prisons and how can the UK Government reduce it?
  • Is there sufficient co-operation and co-ordination between non-devolved and devolved bodies to support Welsh prisoners?

Further information

Image credit: PA