“This is yet more damaging evidence that the justice system of England is not working for Wales,” said Leanne Wood AM, Plaid Cymru’s Shadow Minister for Housing and Social Affairs, following the publication of Cardiff University’s Wales Governance Centre report on sentencing and imprisonment in Wales.
“These latest figures show that our non-devolved prisons are becoming more violent, more drug infested and a lot less safe for staff. There is a major problem with an over-representation of homeless people, people from poorer areas and people from a black, Asian and minority ethnic background. There is clear discrimination within the system.
“The justice system, crafted in England but applied throughout Wales, is not fit for purpose. Prisoners are subjected to horrendous levels of violence and exposed to high levels of drug use, which goes some way to explain why self-harm is increasing dramatically.
“It is no wonder that reoffending rates are high. When the disastrous ideological privatisation of the probation service is added into the equation and the subsequent loss of confidence in the service on the part of those sentencing people, we see left with a toxic combination.
“Almost half of prisoners are registered as homeless - how is the homelessness population going to be reduced unless intensive work is done with these prisoners which results in them getting accommodation on release?
“Jail time is not meant to be a ‘easy option’ but when our prisons are making people more drug dependent and more likely to turn to crime than when they went inside, we are not just failing inmates but we are failing society as a whole.”
Ms Wood added: “Time is long overdue for Wales to take over the powers and responsibilities to craft and shape our own criminal justice system, just like Scotland has been able to do.
“We could design a new system that balanced the duty to ensure that justice is delivered with the need to rehabilitate offenders so that their chances of reoffending are reduced. We could also work on tackling the racism and other discrimination within the system that sees higher numbers of prisoners coming from particular backgrounds.
“This has long been Plaid Cymru’s position. The compelling evidence should not be ignored in favour of populist knee-jerk “tough on criminals” approach - it is time for a concerted cross-party effort to put an end to the continued failing of prisoners and society in Wales.”
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