Prison staff – who have already found £400k in savings, and could now be asked to make even more – have expressed fears that the government's cuts programme will risk their ability to “protect the public and reduce reoffending”.
In a damning letter, members of the Jersey Prison Service Association shared concerns that financial uncertainty could lead HMP La Moye to suffer problems similar to austerity-hit jails in the UK, including overcrowding, staff supervision and retention issues, and an increase in trafficking and use of illicit substances.
Writing to Senator Kristina Moore – chair of a panel investigating the Government Plan, which includes proposals for £100m in “savings” over the next four years – Prison officials said that they had managed to go for a whole decade without any increase to their budget.
The service, they explained, was one of few to have achieved efficiency targets year-on-year, keeping within a £10.5m budget by finding efficiencies through pay reviews and “modernising shift patterns”.
Pictured: The Prison Service managed to keep within a £10.5m between 2009 and 2019 - despite increasing pressures.
Despite this, they said that they had been “asked to find further savings” as part of the government’s ‘Efficiencies Programme’ and had therefore found £400,000 – a target they described as “demanding” but “manageable”.
But now there’s a fear that even further pressure could be put upon them.
Ernst and Young – the firm handed a £2m contract to help the government manage its purse better– will soon be coming into the prison to conduct a review.
“…With the proposed £100m savings that the Government of Jersey has to make, it is clear to us that their mandate will be to find further savings,” the letterexplains.
“We have major concerns that this review is being completed by individuals that do not fully understand the work completed within the SoJPS and the complexities of the environment. We also have concerns that any further savings, either in terms of restructuring or not replacing colleagues that leave the service, will have major consequences for the SoJPS and our ability to keep people in a safe and secure environment, rehabilitate prisoners and reduce reoffending.”
Among their specific concerns is the future of the ‘Conditional Early Release’ programme.
Pictured: The 'Conditional Early Release' programme, which the prison says is vital to help rehabilitation, could be put at risk.
The scheme – which has had “significant” work put into it – sees offenders given post-custodial supervision for the final third of their sentence.
“To continue this excellent work and reduce reoffending we need to ensure we have the appropriate resources. Rehabilitating prisoners will not only reduce reoffending, which is the ultimate efficiency, but will mean that there are less victims of crime and offenders have a chance to lead a law-abiding and useful life after release,” the JPSA explained.
The letter also highlights concerns about the job evaluation methods being used – Haye and Agenda for Change – by the government to identify savings, noting that they have previously been deemed “not fit for purpose” for uniformed services.
In another warning, they suggest that, if their concerns are not taken seriously, Jersey’s prison could suffer a similar fate to those in the UK that have been burdened financially.
“The Prison Service is facing uncertainty and you only need to look at the problems being experienced in the UK service, which is mainly down to a lack of financial investment from the Government in the pursuit of austerity, to see what could happen in Jersey should it follow the same path.
“Issues in the UK include overcrowding, retention of staff, increase in trafficking and use of illicit substances, reduction of levels of staff supervision, private prisons being returned to Government control, increase in violent offences against prisoners and staff, increase in number of serious acts of self-harm / suicide and closure of programs such as through care which is essential to reduce the risk of reoffending, meeting the needs of individuals and improving their success at reintegration.”
Pictured: Ernst and Young, the government's 'Financial Transformation Partner', will soon be coming to inspect the prison - and may demand further efficiencies.
Concluding, the letter reflects on the toll on staff wellbeing, as they strive to meet further budgeting challenges.
“There is a staff wellbeing drive currently being undertaken, with a focus on mental health, however at the moment this just feels like lip service rather than any real intention to support staff. It particularly feels like the SoJPS are an easy target and almost as if we are being punished for meeting modernisation targets in the past and finding efficiencies now.”
The Chief Minister has not yet published full details of the ‘Efficiencies Programme’ - triggering intense criticism from fellow politicians and Scrutiny Chairs - but has pledged to do so in advance of the Government Plan being debated in November.
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