Prisoners Lose TV While Gaining Uniforms in U.K. Overhaul

Justice Secretary Chris Grayling said prisoners in England and Wales will be forced to wear uniforms and lose automatic rights to watch television unless they can show they are engaging in rehabilitation programs.

“It’s about us setting an appropriate regime,” Grayling told Sky News television today. “I think when somebody arrives in prison, they shouldn’t be able to wear their own clothes. They shouldn’t have a TV in their cells. They should demonstrate over the first week or two in prison that they’re willing to engage in rehabilitation programs, sign on for training courses, start doing work in the prison laundry so they’re doing something positive and not if they’re saying that they won’t engage.”

The announcement is the latest in a series of law-and-order measures designed to appeal to core Conservative voters and distance the Tories from their Liberal Democrat coalition partners before a general election set to be held in 2015.

Grayling is aiming to reduce reoffending levels by making male prisoners ready for work once they are released. He will also ban subscription television channels and access to DVDs with violent or sexual content.

The latest statistics released by the justice ministry showed there were 83,637 prisoners in England and Wales in February. Ministry forecasts show the prison population could hit 90,900 by 2018.

Prisoners who cause damage will also be charged for the costs of repairs, Grayling said, adding that other sanctions include restricting access to cash and reducing time in the jail gym.

Tough Policies

Grayling, who took over from Ken Clarke in October, has already announced that the U.K. will introduce mandatory life sentences for two-time sex offenders and amend the law so people who fight back against burglars won’t face prosecution if they use reasonable force. Home Secretary Theresa May said victims of antisocial behavior will be able to pick the punishment for their tormenters.

Separately, the opposition Labour Party published statistics today showing more than 10,000 serious violent crimes were dealt with informally last year by police.

Police used so-called “community resolutions,” which include an apology or compensation to the victim, instead of prosecutions and cautions, according to data from 33 police forces in England and Wales that responded to a freedom-of-information request. Not every police force responded.

Labour’s home affairs spokeswoman, Yvette Cooper, said in an e-mail the figures are “extremely serious.”

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