Liz Truss, the Justice Secretary, says that she will not approve any “dangerous quick fix” to cut down the prison population. She blames criminals serving sentences convicted of violent crimes and sexual crimes in particular for the overcrowding of the country’s prisons.

Truss wants the prison system to implement better reformation processes and earlier intervention in prison life rather than reducing prisoners’ sentences. Truss has come under scrutiny on the issue recently after the BBC went into a prison to investigate and exposed the hectic, anarchic nature of life inside the prison, which is filled to the brim with far too many inmates.

According to The Howard League, these issues are not just specific to the one prison the BBC infiltrated, as these problems have been found in “almost every prison in the country.”

Ministry of Justice investigating

The Ministry of Justice has vowed to investigate some discoveries made about HMP Northumberland prison in the BBC programme. Such discoveries include little to no control over the prisoners by the guards, door alarms that in some cases failed to work, drug use across the entire institution, and a gaping hole in one of the security fences that has yet to be repaired. Danny Shaw, the BBC correspondent for domestic affairs, has criticised Truss’ speech. He says she concentrated on the “appalling” number of repeat offenders, but she mentioned nothing about what policies she would be putting in place to fix the problem.

The major topics Truss covered during her speech included bulking up prison security “with teeth,” placing blame on Truss herself for her recommendations; acquiring more focused help for drug offenders; enhancing rehabilitation programmes; no budging on unstipulated sentences in order to protect the public; and the current rate of repeat offences within one year of conviction, which is 25.3%.

Truss warned during her speech at the Centre for Social Justice that reducing the prison numbers “by sweeping sentencing cuts” is “not a magic bullet,” instead calling it “a dangerous attempt at a quick fix,” which she won’t approve as long as she’s in office. In 1995, 50,962 people were behind bars in England and Wales. In 2016, it had risen to 85,490.