§ 59. Mr. Radford
asked the Home Secretary whether he has any statement to make with regard to the mutinous conduct on the part of prisoners in certain of His Majesty's prisons; and what steps he is taking to restore discipline?
§ Sir J. Anderson
On the outbreak of war steps were taken to reduce to a minimum the population of the prisons in the more vulnerable areas, especially in London. For this purpose, prisoners were transferred from the prisons in the big towns to other prisons; and, in order to find the necessary space for these emergency transfers, a certain number of prisoners who were nearing the end of their sentences were released. Some of the prisoners transferred have resented their removal to places at a distance from their homes, where it is less easy for them to receive visits from friends or relatives, and have regarded it as a grievance that, while some of their fellow prisoners had their sentences shortened, they themselves have received no similar benefit. As a result, there has been trouble in some of the provincial prisons, and a certain number of prisoners have sought to demonstrate their resentment by shouting in a disorderly fashion, and sometimes by breaking cell windows and smashing cell equipment. Appropriate disciplinary measures have been and are being taken against those who have been guilty of disorderly and insubordinate conduct. The emergency arrangements which had to be made on the outbreak of war threw a considerable strain on the prison staffs, and a word of commendation is, I think, due to them. They are dealing with the present difficulties resolutely, steadily and prudently.
§ Mr. Radford
Is it not a fact that a number of criminals have got the impression now that they can with impunity do anything they want to do, and are not such decisions as that of my right hon. Friend's predecessor, with regard to a prisoner who has assaulted warders four times, simply typical of the sort of encouragement that is being given to this sort of insubordination?
§ Sir J. Anderson
I think I ought to say that many of the reports which have appeared in the Press with regard to disturbances in prisons have been grossly exaggerated. If we are to succeed—as I am sure we shall—in restoring nonnal conditions in a short space of time, I suggest, it is most undesirable that undue prominence should be given to these matters.