Welsh prisons in drug and suicide crisis
Welsh prisons in drug and suicide crisis, Wales is facing significant challenges with its prison system, which is described as overcrowded, lacking resources, and suffering from serious issues ranging from drug problems to increasing suicide rates. There’s a growing argument that control over these prisons should be transferred to the Welsh Government in Cardiff Bay.
Liz Saville Roberts, the leader of Plaid Cymru in Westminster and the party’s spokesperson for justice, is set to argue for this change in a debate in Parliament. Representing Dwyfor Meirionnydd, she plans to present a strong case based on factual evidence for transferring justice powers to Wales.
Recent research from Cardiff University’s Wales Governance Centre highlights the difficulties in the Welsh criminal justice system. One striking finding is that the number of people experiencing homelessness after leaving prison has tripled in just under a year. Additionally, Wales has a higher rate of prisoners compared to other parts of the UK, with 177 prisoners per 100,000 people, compared to 146 in England, 146 in Scotland, and 100 in Northern Ireland.
Before the debate, Ms. Saville Roberts expressed her concerns, stating that the criminal justice system in Wales is failing to make society safer and is often having the opposite effect. She pointed out that the system in Wales is performing even worse than England’s, which is already known for its challenges. Issues include higher rates of violent crimes, greater over-representation of black and Asian individuals in the prison population, and higher incarceration rates than in England.
She also highlighted the complex division of responsibilities between Westminster and Cardiff, which leads to confusion and inefficiency in justice and policing in Wales. This complexity not only adds to bureaucratic challenges but also negatively affects people’s lives.
In the upcoming debate, Ms. Saville Roberts plans to address several key issues, including the rising homelessness rates among former prisoners, the absence of women’s prisons in Wales, and the limited control Welsh authorities have over justice matters. Despite being responsible for funding public services for prisoners, including healthcare, the Welsh authorities currently have little say over justice issues.
Justice powers in Wales are presently managed from Westminster. The UK Government has argued that devolving these powers could disrupt cross-border policing and court services. However, a commission led by Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, the former lord chief justice of England and Wales, recommended in 2017 that these responsibilities should be devolved. While the Conservative Government in Westminster has not acted on these recommendations, the Labour Party has indicated that it would consider devolving some aspects of the justice system to Cardiff, including youth justice.