There are all sorts of problems in our prisons, but no one has any ideas on what to do to solve them.
Labour thinks the state should run them again…like that is ever going to result in success.
Michael Gove in the UK though is working on a possible solution.
Inside the Sanders Estes Correctional Center in Dallas, Texas, the inmates grinned and clapped enthusiastically as they listened to a speaker on stage tell them about their potential future as business entrepreneurs.
Sitting in white prison uniforms in the main hall, they were joined not by scowling warders, but by sharp-suited young university graduates who offer to mentor the would-be businessmen in how to set up and grow the small enterprises they will start once released.
For a US state like Texas, where penal policy has a reputation for putting more emphasis on punishment than reform, it is a remarkable scene – and one which Michael Gove, the Justice Secretary, plans to replicated in Britain.
This week, when Mr Gove announces a dramatic shake-up of the British penal system at the Tory Party conference in Manchester on Tuesday, he will be tearing at least some pages from Texas’s new tough-love prison reform manual.
The Gove plan is designed to tackle what the out-going chief inspector of prisons called “the violence, squalor and idleness” endemic in the UK system, delegating greater power to governors over budgets to improve educational and vocational programs in prisons.
“We are responsible for these people, we can determine what they do, who they see, what happens, to them 24 hours a day and we don’t devote nearly enough time to educating them,” he said in an interview with the Times.
Faced with soaring prison populations – and matching bills to maintain them – the Texas scheme has cut incarceration rates 12 per cent, enabling the closure of three entire prisons, saving millions of dollars.
In 2008, a year after the first major reforms were implemented, the government saved $444 million (£292.47 million), according to a Texas policy foundation report.