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United Kingdom: prisons watchdog blames ‘failure of leadership’ for dire state of jails in England and Wales

Prisons in England and Wales are struggling due to a “failure of leadership” on behalf of ministers, the watchdog said today.

Peter Clarke, the government’s chief inspector of prisons delivered a damning assessment of the state of the jail system and laid half the blame at the highest level.

His comments come less than a week after the Ministry of Justice published figures showing prisons are more unsafe than ever recorded.

Appearing before the Justice Select Committee today Mr Clarke was asked to sum up what is wrong with prisons in England and Wales after his first year in the job.

“They are unsafe, they are full of drugs, we have an ageing population, the physical environment is appalling and there are far too many people in our prisons who are suffering from mental health issues,” he said.

“In my judgement those five issues will create a major obstruction to the reform programme.”

Witheringly he added: “Far too often it feels as if our reports are falling on deaf ears - not in all prisons but in some.”

Mr Clarke said for the first time the majority of safety recommendations put forward by the watchdog were not being implemented by prisons.

He said the inability for some prisons to improve was a “failure of leadership” at both the national and local level.

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