THE Welsh Liberal Democrats have called for greater clarity around the situation in Welsh prisons, following a Government admission that figures about the number of Covid-19 cases were wrong.
In a House of Lords debate on prisons on the 23rd April, Welsh Liberal Democrat Peer Christine Humphreys pressed the Government about the level of Covid-19 in Welsh prisons after new modelling that showed almost 25% of Covid-19 cases in the prison population were in Wales.
Writing to Baroness Humphreys in a letter dated 7th May, Lord Keen confirmed that figures were not yet available for Welsh prisons. This is due to a reporting error being identified in the data published on 27th April meaning the 25% of Covid-19 cases in the prison population being in Welsh prisons information was incorrect.
This compounds an already complex issue where, due to justice being a reserved matter and thus not devolved to Wales, the UK Ministry of Justice is responsible for sentencing and prisoner release while the Welsh Government is responsible for the health and well-being of prisoners.
In response, Baroness Humphreys raised the issue again in the House of Lords today and called for greater clarity around the current situation in Welsh prisons. The Party is also calling for moves to be taken to the devolve justice to the Senedd.
Baroness Christine Humphreys said:
“I am deeply concerned about the ongoing situation in Welsh prisons. Wales houses 6% of the UK prison population, yet we lack clarity about the number of Covid-19 cases in our prisons.
“Justice is a complex matter, with responsibility being split between the Senedd and Westminster. This hampers our ability to care for those in our prisons, especially when we do not have accurate data.
“We know that our prisons are already overcrowded, and this creates potential breeding grounds for the virus. There needs to be clear strategy to care for those infected, or I fear we will see Covid-19 ravage our prisons.
“We need to clarity about the ongoing situation in Welsh prisons and to re-think our approach. It is clear locking people up on an industrial scale is not working and the fact the Government has been unable to provide accurate information on the health and wellbeing of our prison population should set alarm bells ringing.”
Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader Jane Dodds said:
“It is clear that the current devolution settlement is simply not working when it comes to justice. Having two different bodies responsible for two elements of the same matter is both confusing and burdensome – creating more unnecessary paperwork and red tape.
“We need to empower the Senedd to have responsibility for all matters of justice, just as they do in Scotland. This constitutional imbalance needs addressing so we can get to grips with the situation in our prisons and have a clear line of responsibility for the situation.”