Minister ‘will not resign’ over prison problems

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The Minister fought her corner stoutly in front of the Social Affairs scrutiny panel yesterday and blamed decades of neglect in providing resources to the prison for the conditions that were fiercely criticised in a report by the Chief Inspector of Prisons Anne Owers.

At times the embattled Senator spoke over panel chairman Deputy Bob Hill as she tried to get her points across.

However, she pledged to stay on to see the job through but also said that her colleagues on the Council of Ministers have to be prepared to release the necessary funds.

‘Give me the tools and I will do the job,’ said the Senator, adding: ‘Other people would have run from this job but I didn’t because I actually care about it.’ The 2005 report by Ms Owers highlighted many of the same failings identified in an inspection carried out four years earlier, when Senator Kinnard was a member of the then Home Affairs Committee.

But she argued repeatedly that a plethora of requests for funding that she made to the then Finance and Economics Committee to rectify the position fell on deaf ears and she was told to find the money elsewhere in Home Affairs’ budgets.

The Senator said that the Island’s otherwise successful criminal justice system had led to more criminals being sent to La Moye and this had caused overcrowding problems.

The scrutiny panel did uncover that it was a legal requirement for Home Affairs to produce annual reports to the States on prison numbers.

However, it was accepted by Senator Kinnard that this had not happened in recent years.

Asked by Deputy Deidre Mezbourian who the Senator believed was responsible for the current state of La Moye, she responded: ‘I would say the States of Jersey as a whole.’ There was also an element of blame attached to the former governor Mike Kirby.

Senator Kinnard suggested he had been ‘over optimistic’ in his reporting of progress that had been made in implementing the recommendations of the 2001 inspector’s report.

The Senator said that a formal performance improvement plan was now being prepared that would outline what needs to be done and the progress of the work monitored.

Prison governor Steve Guy Gibbons said that he was ‘not interested in quick fixes’ and told the panel there would be no ‘knee jerk reactions’ to the report.

‘I want Jersey to have a prison to be proud of,’ he said.

He told the panel that 25 new posts had been authorised by the Treasury and the prison was in the process of recruiting the staff.

He also said new buildings were under construction to improve conditions for inmates but he added that a great deal more still needed to be done.

Home Affairs chief officer Steven Austin Vautier said the department is going to have to establish priorities and that not everything can be done at one time.

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