Prison Reform has been on the lips of many for a long time coming. Some have said punishment is all that matters, while others have said full rehabilitation is the way to go. I believe in the latter - it speaks to the real concept of prison. However, England and Wales' prison system is failing miserably. It's failing its staff and its prisoners. All the worse factors are on a rise, and nobody knows when the numbers will come down.

One too many prison suicides

Prison suicides are at its peak. In the last week, two prison suicides have made the news; a transgender woman at all-male Parkhurst jail, Isle of Wight and a family man, Andrew Rawlins at HMP Bristol.

These are a result of poor mental health care for inmates who are vulnerable to the unfavourable conditions of prison. According to the report on Mental Health in prisons published by the National Audit Office in April 2017, the number of self-inflicted deaths in 2016 was recorded at an all-time high of 120 and almost double that for 2012. In addition, self-inflicted harm increased by 73% between 2012 and 2016 to 40,161.

Access to mental health care in prison is low; prisoners cannot get care when needed and trained staff are regularly unavailable. It was recorded that only 34 percent of prisoners were transferred within 14 days to prisons in 2016-17 for needed mental health care.

Of the prisoners transferred to hospitals, 7 percent (76 people) waited for more than 140 days and in one case, someone waited for more than a year. This is an appalling response to what requires much attention.

The NAO report also said: "The data on how many people in prison have mental health problems and how much government is spending to address this is poor.

Consequently, the National Offender Management System (NOMS) now Her Majesty's Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) as of April 2017, NHS England and Public Health England do not know the base they are starting from to meet their objectives."

It is worrying that government hasn't invested effort into the very essence of prison which is to ensure that offenders are living comfortably in successful rehabilitation so that they may not re-offend again upon release.

If you don't know who has been diagnosed with mental health issues on arrival to prison (and what they have been diagnosed with), how can you provide the services to cater for their needs? More so, how may you prevent the likelihood of that one person not inflicting harm on themselves or worse yet, kill themselves in turn?

The staff cuts don't help

Since 2010, the funding for NOMS was reduced by 13 percent between 2009-10 and 2016-17 and over the same period, NOMS cut its staff by 30 percent. "Prisons have struggled to cope with reduced resources. When prisons are short-staffed, governors run restricted regimes where prisoners spend more of the day in their cells, making it more challenging to access mental health services," the report added.

The prison staff cuts not only affect areas such as access to mental health but also areas of safety for prisoners and prison officers. In a prison in Hertfordshire, although nobody was injured or killed, only 20 officers were on duty to supervise more than 1,000 inmates during a riot in July of this year. In December 2016, there was a prison riot at private managed HMP Birmingham and another at HMP Swaleside on the Isle of Sheppey in the same month. As a result of cuts to funding and staff shortages, fewer prison officers are trained to deal with these riots - and more investment goes into specialist tactical groups like Tornado, Gold Command, and National Tactical Response Group to calm prisoners down - in the long run, this doesn't give the government value for money.

Worryingly, assaults on staff have increased by 32 percent in the last 12 months and quarter, another record high, of which 25 percent of these were serious assaults. Some of the serious assaults recorded were internal injuries, cuts requiring suturing. and permanent blindness.

The government has a 'plan'

The government, specifically Ministry of Justice (MoJ) in partnership with Prisoners Governor's Association, HMPPS, Department of Health, NHS England and Public Health England need to come together to solve these problems in a wholesome manner. However, it must be acknowledged that Liz Truss (then the Justice Secretary) made an attempt in putting forward the Prisons and Courts Bill 2016-17 to Parliament.

In hopes that it becomes law to promote essential reform, modernisation and effectiveness in prisons. Since that fell through, worrying uncertainty still looms, for everybody. Although, it can serve as a blueprint for the future.

Overall, it is widely known (and expected) that more effort is necessary to measure rehabilitation progress in prisons in England and Wales because a place where overcrowding, drugs, bullying, low numbers of staff, and violence prevail is a toxic environment. Overcrowding in prisons could mean that people who deserve to go to prison for their heinous crimes don't go and the people that are in prisons continue to suffer to their own detriment with drugs use, bullying and high risk of violence and suicides contributing to the failure of the prison system.

Note: The NAO examined only health services provided in England in the report because the issues around health are devolved. However, the report covered prisons in both England and Wales.