Offenders 'sleep through sentences'
Too many young offenders are sleeping their way through their sentences and authorities must do a better job of rehabilitating them ahead of their release, the chief inspector of prisons has said.
Nick Hardwick, who took up his post last summer, said it was "common sense" that if an inmate left prison with somewhere to live, a job and support then they would be less likely to reoffend.
"It is not enough simply for prisons to punish and protect," he said. "They must rehabilitate as well."
At a recent visit to a young offenders' institution, the "overwhelming impression was of young men sleeping their way through their sentence", he said. "It was a depressing place."
With the prison population in England and Wales approaching a record high of more than 85,500, punishing offenders and protecting the public was "too often seen as the be all and end all", he said.
"The critical problem is that we talk about prison capacity as the number of prisoners you can squeeze into the available cells - not whether there is the space and resources to do anything sensible with them."
His post bag was full of letters from prisoners who have been told they need to do specific programmes before they can be considered for parole or release, but they were being held in prisons where the courses were not available, he said.
"Common sense surely tells us that it is better for us and better for prisoners if they spend their days in something like a normal routine rather than sleeping their way through their sentence."
In his speech on "What are prisons for?" at Bournemouth University, Mr Hardwick also highlighted the work at category C Bure prison in Norwich, where governor Sue Doolan "had a clear vision that every member of staff should see it as a main purpose of their job to reduce the likelihood that prisoners reoffend".
"Surely that is the vision of every prison governor," Mr Hardwick said. "It is not. That was an exception."