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David Cameron delivers major speech on prison reform

PM's call for governors to be handed total control over how they run jails and autonomy over budgets

In a major speech on prison reform, Prime Minister David Cameron is expected to call for prison governors to be handed total control over how they run their jails and autonomy over how they spend budgets.

He believes such changes will help cut recidivism and cites statistics showing nearly half of all prisoners go on to re-offend within a year of being released.

Mr Cameron wants the public and politicians to be able to compare how well different penal institutions are performing, and he is expected to say that prison reform should be “a great progressive cause in British politics”.

His emphasis on redemption contrasts strikingly with an apparent lack of focus from past governments of all political shades on how to tackle the problems besetting Britain’s penal institutions.

In his speech Mr Cameron is expected to say: “In a typical week, there will be almost 600 incidents of self-harm; at least one suicide; and 350 assaults, including 90 on staff.”

Such statistics should "shame us all," he is expected to add.

The government is setting up a new social enterprise with the aim of helping to recruit high quality graduates who will “transform prisons into places of rehabilitation and learning”.

Frances Crook, chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, welcomed the speech but said overcrowding and sentence inflation presented barriers to the vision of reformed prisons becoming a reality.