Page last updated at 13:49 GMT, Monday, 23 March 2009

Control prisons from Wales call

Jonathan Aitken
Jonathan Aitken leaving Elmley prison on the Isle of Sheppey, Kent, in 2000

Former MP Jonathan Aitken has called for the Welsh assembly government to take over responsibility for prisons and rehabilitating offenders in Wales.

Ex-prisoner Mr Aitken led the prison reform study for the Conservative think tank, the Centre for Social Justice.

He said the assembly government was "absolutely ready and capable" of running the services "much better".

The report also recommends the building of new, small community jails, rather than so called 'Titan prisons'.

Mr Aitken told BBC Radio Wales the UK-wide National Offender Management Service was "trying to run this by remote control" and should be abolished with its functions decentralised.

If you're interested...not just in punishing prisoners...but also rehabilitating them, that's best done not be some great Titan programme
Jonathan Aitken

"Wales should be one of the first areas to have its own CPRT - Community Prison and Rehabilitation Trust," he said.

"We'd like to see the Welsh Assembly Government in control of the prisons and the rehabilitation - joined up rehabilitation in communities.

"We think they'll do a better job and cut re-offending."

Former Cabinet minister Mr Aitken was jailed for 18 months in 1999 for perjury and served seven months of his sentence.

His report rejects the UK Government's approach to prisons, with its plans for three 2,500-place jails in England by 2014.

The Ministry of Justice has said the jails, in London, the West Midlands and the north west of England by 2014, will provide "value for money" for the taxpayer.

Dangerous prisoners

But Mr Aiken said a prison needed to be a "human mechanism in which people can become part of a community and go out into a community".

"If you're interested...not just in punishing prisoners, which is important, but also rehabilitating them, that's best done not by some great Titan programme," Mr Aitken said.

He described Titan prisons as "huge, great supermarket prisons located in areas far from homes, far from communities".

Instead, he said, "community prisons" would mean people leaving prison could be "picked up by and met by and mentored by the local community - very often community groups and sometimes professionally".

"We know, and no-one knows better than me, having been in prison, that there are some prisoners who have to be locked up because they're dangerous and there are many many prisoners who need and deserve to be punished, so there is no disagreement about that.

"I think what's gone wrong is that rehabilitation, which is supposed to be part of prison life, has slipped far down the agenda and it can only be done in what I call 'joined-up and localised' rehabilitation," Mr Aitken added.



SEE ALSO
Aitken to lead study on prisons
12 Nov 07 |  UK Politics
Aitken: Pride was my downfall
17 Jul 02 |  Politics

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