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Queen’s Speech – Reform of Courts and Prisons Announced

On 18 May 2016, the government announced that prisons could become independent legal entities as part of the proposed reformation of prisons and courts.

The Queen’s speech heralded legislation aimed at giving individuals a second chance. To this end, prisons will be reformed to make them ‘places of rehabilitation’.

The Prison and Courts Reform Bill includes measures to modernise the courts and tribunals service in line with the government’s manifesto. As part of this modernisation, new technologies will be implemented to ‘make the court system fit for purpose’.

Taking into account the needs of vulnerable members of society, the speech indicated that there would be improvements in the mental health provisions for those individuals in the criminal justice system who need additional support.

As these changes are implemented, more than 5,000 offenders will be housed in ‘reform’ prisons. Six ‘trailblazer’ sites will be located in London, the East Midlands and the north-east.

The other ‘reform’ prisons will be HMP Holme House, HMP Kirklevington Grange, HMP Coldingley, HMP High Down and HMP Ranby.

Governors at these prisons will be given ‘unprecedented’ freedoms, including financial and legal freedoms, such as those on how the prison budget is spent, whether to opt out of national contracts, and operational freedoms over education, the prison regime, family visits, and partnerships to provide prison work and rehabilitation services.

The government says it will use legislation to extend these freedoms further, by enabling prisons to be established as independent legal entities with the power to enter into contracts, generate and retain income, and establish their own boards.

Satellite tracking of offenders’ movements will be piloted in Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire, West Midlands, Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northampton, the government also announced.

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