Prisons Bishop: Imprisoning UK offenders in other countries undermines efforts to cut crime

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Responding to the announcement by Justice Secretary Alex Chalk that new measures will allow the Government to rent prison cells overseas to house offenders, Bishop Richard Moth, Lead Bishop for Prisons, says the move is likely to damage rehabilitation efforts and do little to reduce reoffending.

“The recent Government proposal to consider renting space in overseas prisons in response to the shortfall in prison capacity in our own country is deeply concerning. It is neither a temporary solution to a temporary challenge nor an acceptable alternative in criminal justice policy, but a reactionary response to the continuing problems of sentence inflation and prison overcrowding that have remained unaddressed and unresolved for too long.

“Although the Government notes that similar practices already happen in a small number of other countries, the outsourcing of the imprisonment of offenders to a different jurisdiction is a failure of Government to meet the public need for effective punishment of offences and rehabilitation of offenders, and a poor reflection on the responsibilities of society as a whole.

“This proposal is particularly worrying for its likely damage to rehabilitation efforts. As the Prison Advice and Care Trust has already noted in response to this announcement, evidence shows that prisoners who stay in touch with family are 39% less likely to reoffend. Any policy that undermines these ties, such as foreign imprisonment, only undermines any attempts to cut crime, reduce reoffending, and restore ex-offenders to healthy relationships with their communities.”

Andy Keen-Downs, CEO of Pact, the Prison Advice and Care Trust, said: “Renting prison places abroad is an indication that the capacity problem has now reached crisis point. It’s the entirely predictable culmination of years of underinvestment in our prisons, coupled with a justice system that simply locks up too many people.

“This is a deeply embarrassing moment for the Government and raises all sorts of questions about how our political leaders have failed to grip the challenges within our criminal justice system.”


Read Pact’s full statement here.

Read the Government press release announcing the measures, 3 October 2023.