Labour Party prisons policy: How we will fix the prisons crisis and keep criminals behind bars

Photo of Keir Starmer facing the camera and speaking to two police officers with their backs to the camers

Labour will fix the prisons crisis by driving through a prisons building programme, as part of our mission to take back our streets and tackle crime and antisocial behaviour.

Overcrowding has made our prisons a powder keg waiting to explode and led to the government instructing the police to arrest fewer criminals and deliberately delay court hearings to stem the flow into prisons.

No wonder millions do not feel safe on the streets and many people are frightened to leave their homes.

The Tories have failed our prisons

The Tories promised to create 20,000 additional prison places, but 10 Justice Secretaries in 10 chaotic years have failed to deliver, with just 6,000 places being built, and the programme delayed.

This failure has left jails bursting at the seams, with criminals – including domestic abusers, one of which who was described as “a risk to children” – now being released up to 70 days early, creating a potential risk to the public.

Prison staff are also increasingly at risk. The number of assaults on staff have risen from 3,266 to 9,204 in 10 years, an increase of 182%. That is 177 assaults on staff per week.  

Rishi Sunak has turned prisons into breeding grounds for crime which are creating ever more hardened criminals. Some 80% of those entering prison for the first time today have a previous offence or caution, at a cost of an astonishing £18bn to the taxpayer. 

How Labour will fix prisons

As part of plans to make Britain’s streets safer, a Labour government will:  

  • Take control of the planning process by classifying prisons as being of ‘national importance’ on public safety grounds, so the approval decision is in ministers’ hands.
  • Deliver the 20,000 promised jail places to ensure there is always enough space to lock up the most dangerous offenders
  • Bring together prison governors and local employers to create Employment Councils to drive down reoffending, linking offenders to training and jobs, and reducing the burden on capacity in the long term.

How Labour will tackle crime and antisocial behaviour

Labour has an ambitious plan to take back our streets that the Tories have abandoned.

  • Putting 13,000 more neighbourhood police and PCSOs on the beat, funded by a new police efficiency programme on procurement and shared services based on the work of the Police Foundation.
  • Cracking down on anti-social behaviour through tough new Respect Orders with criminal sanctions for persistent anti-social behaviour.
  • Giving teenagers the best start in life with new youth hubs, containing mental health staff and youth workers to tackle the crisis in mental health, give teenagers the support they need and prevent knife crime.
  • Tackling shoplifting gangs by ending the rule brought in by the Tories which stops shop thefts under £200 being investigated.